Effects of Insulin Overdose

Insulin is a medication given to diabetic patients who cannot make sufficient body insulin or whose body cannot use the body’s insulin effectively. Body insulin works to breakdown carbohydrates such as sugars into glucose. Glucose provides energy to the cells in order to function properly. When the body does not have sufficient insulin, sugar accumulates in the blood. The dosages of several types of insulin vary among patients based on their disease conditions. An overdose of insulin is an emergency that can become fatal.

Low Blood Sugar

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the primary function of insulin is to control blood sugar and keep it within normal acceptable limits for the body. When diabetics take insulin in appropriate doses, they can control their blood sugar so that their bodies can function properly. When they take a higher than required, insulin over-compensates and drops the sugar to below normal levels, a condition known as hypoglycemia. Symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) include severe hunger, cold sweats, headaches, palpitations, blurred vision, drowsiness, tiredness, confusion, seizures and coma.

Low Blood Potassium

Overdose of insulin causes a decrease in blood potassium, a condition known as hypokalemia. A severe drop in potassium causes fatigue and constipation. It can also cause changes in heartbeat and irregularity of heartbeat. Hypokalemia can also affect the muscles, causing a breakdown of muscles components as well as weakening of the muscles. When the muscles become affected, the patient may feel muscle tenderness, pain and weakness.

Nervous System Problems

Excessive insulin can cause a depression of the body’s central nervous system (CNS). The CNS controls the brain, spinal cord and part of the eyes. When the central nervous system slows down, respiration and heartbeat also slows to abnormal rates. CNS depression can commonly lead to sleepiness, uncoordinated speech, abnormal gait and impaired thinking and actions. According to the National Institute of Health, CNS depression can cause coma or become fatal if the rate of breathing and heart rate remains sufficiently reduced.

Respiratory Problems

Insulin overdose can cause a serious respiratory distress known as Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). ARDS is a life-threatening lung impairment that reduces the amount of oxygen received by the body due to inflammation in the lungs. People with ARDS frequently require a mechanical way to breathe (life support) since the respiratory system is no longer functional.
ARDS frequently leads to failure of other organs in the body due to insufficient oxygen supply to the cells, ultimately causing death.

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