Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome (HHNS): What You Should Know

What is it?

Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic Nonketotic Syndrome, or HHNS, is one of two of the most serious metabolic complications of diabetes mellitus (the other is diabetes ketoacidosis, or DKA). This condition is an emergency caused by very high blood sugar (often over 600 mg/dL), and the kidneys try to eliminate the extra blood sugar by putting more sugar in the urine. This leads to frequent urination and the body loses too much fluid, causing dehydration.

Who has it?

HHNS is frequently seen in patients older in age, however, it can occur to anyone with type one or type two diabetes.

What is the cause?

The condition occurs when a patient’s diabetes is not being controlled properly. HHNS is typically brought on by an illness or infection, a heart attack, a medicine that decreases the effect of insulin in the body, or, a medicine that increases fluid loss.

Are there symptoms, or warning signs?

There are several warning signs. These include: blood sugar level over 600 mg/dL, dry mouth, extreme thirst, warm skin that does not sweat, high fever, confusion, vision loss, hallucinations, or weakness on one side of the body.

Can it be prevented?

HHNS can be avoided if a patient’s diabetes is under control. All patients with diabetes should be sure to check their blood sugar regularly, knowing what those numbers mean. The goal is to recognize the early signs of dehydration and infection before they develop into HHNS. If the condition continues, the severe dehydration will lead to seizures, coma, and eventually death.