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How Long Can a Diabetic Go Without Insulin?

How Long Can a Diabetic Go Without Insulin

Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are two very different conditions that have different causes and require different treatment. Type 1 diabetes is a life-long condition that has no clear cause and no cure. People with Type 1 diabetes cannot produce insulin on their own and require insulin injections for the rest of their lives.

Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition that can develop due to poor diet and exercise as well as genetics. People with this form of diabetes produce insulin but their fat tissues, liver, and muscles cannot absorb it properly. While they may be able to manage their blood glucose levels with diet, exercise, and medication, the longer an individual has type 2 diabetes, the more likely they are to need insulin.

How Long Can a Type 2 Diabetic go Without Insulin?

This is a complicated query, as many Type 2 diabetics do not require insulin. Going without insulin can lead a diabetic to develop ketoacidosis (DKA), which is potentially fata. Type 2 diabetics are very likely t be able to survive without insulin, especially if they are eating a healthy diabetic diet.

However, if a Type 2 diabetic has started using insulin as part of their diabetes treatment, going without it may be dangerous. Type 2 diabetics may develop hyperglycemia (too much glucose, not enough insulin) if they do not properly manage their blood glucose levels. It can take days or weeks for hyperglycemia to develop. If untreated, hyperglycemia can damage the kidneys, heart, eyes, and nerves.

Symptoms of hyperglycemia include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme thirst
  • Weakness
  • Headache

How Long Can a Type 1 Diabetic Live Without Insulin?

Skipping insulin as a Type 1 diabetic is much more dangerous. If a person has been recently diagnosed, they may still have some insulin in their body that will allow them to go a few days or even a week before succumbing to DKA. However, some Type 1 diabetics, particularly children or teenagers, are so dependent on insulin injections that they may show signs of DKA in less than a day.

How long a person is able to survive without insulin also depends on what kind of insulin they are taking and its duration of effect. At the most, a Type 1 diabetic is likely to start seeing signs of DKA within 24 to 48 hours.

Signs of DKA include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fruity-smelling breath
  • Confusion

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Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.
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