You are currently viewing Coma: Types, Causes & Treatments

Coma: Types, Causes & Treatments

The information you are going to get from this Article are:
1. What is a coma, how does it differ from sleep?
2. What is brain death? does it relate to a coma?
3. What is a Food coma?
4. Types of Coma.
5. How to feed a comatose?
6. Issues a comatose face during a coma?
7. The Different States of coma.
8. Causes of coma.
9. Treatments for coma.


Coma comes from the Greek word Koma means “deep sleep”. Coma is a state of unconsciousness in which a person doesn’t respond to any activity, sound, or other outside stimuli. Even if you hurt a person in a coma physically, he is not going to give any response. This is right that comatose is still alive but the brain is functioning at its lowest state. Many people think that coma is sleep but it’s not. A coma patient and a sleeping person may look the same from the outside like giving a peaceful expression, closed eyes, etc. But unlike someone who is sleeping, a comatose is not going to wake up even if you try. Coma is a completely different phenomenon having different causes.

Brain Death

Brain death is an irreversible state in which the body of the patient is in complete need of the support of machines to survive because the brain death expired the whole function of the body. The brain death patient without artificial life support is considered dead.

Food Coma

A food coma is also known as “Postprandial somnolence”. The word postprandial means “after eating” and somnolence means “sleepy”. It is a medical condition that gives a person the feeling of sleepiness, drowsiness after a meal. This condition reduces the energy level of the body. It occurs when you eat large meals or food high in carbohydrates due to which your body produces more insulin. The more insulin production increases the tryptophan acid level in the brain. The tryptophan is an amino acid that then generates serotonin a hormone responsible for regulating mood, feelings of well-being, etc. Serotonin produces melatonin the hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin is responsible for making you feel drowsy. The foods that can cause food coma are turkey, white rice, potatoes, etc.


1. Anoxic Brain Injury

This condition occurs due to the lack of oxygen in the brain. It slowly results in the death of brain cells. The causes include strokes, cardiac arrest, etc. The signs of this condition are loss of consciousness, confusion, difficulty with speech. The chances of recovering when the situation is severe are rare but patients with milder anoxic brain injury can fully or partially recover.

2. Toxic Metabolic Encephalopathy

This is the dysfunction of the brain that occurs due to organ failure or if a person is already having some health issues. For example in diabetes when blood sugar levels are very high it can lead to coma. This defect also occurs due to the presence of toxic chemicals present in the body that badly affects the brain. In most cases, this condition is reversible but if left untreated could cause permanent brain damage.

Ways To Feed Comatose

A comatose can’t eat or drink due to unconsciousness. For keeping the patient alive doctors use a small tube that is inserted into the veins or they use a feeding tube called a nasogastric tube that bypasses the mouth and esophagus to transmit the fluid or nutrients into the stomach. A feeding tube also has some side effects i.e aspiration, diarrhea, nasopharyngeal lesions, etc.

Common Complications That Occur During Coma

Common issues that comatose faces include muscle atrophy, which is due to not using your muscles for a long period. Another problem is bedsore that occurs in the areas of the body which remain under pressure for a long period. 


1. The state of unconsciousness for at least one hour is called Coma. Comatose patients who survive, begin to awake and recover within a few weeks.

2. If a person remains in the state of unconsciousness for more than one month it is called a vegetative state. In this state, the patient is awake but remains unaware of his surroundings.
If a vegetative state lasts for more than twelve months it is then called an irreversible state.

3. The other state is the Minimally conscious state in which a person becomes minimally aware of his surroundings and starts to give minimal responses. In this state, a person also feels pain because of gaining consciousness. This doesn’t consider permanent until it lasts for many years. 


Brain injury due to road accident or some other cause, stroke due to the lowering blood supply to the major parts of the brain that causes swelling, lack of oxygen to the brain, Bleeding in the brain, Diabetes in which blood sugar level increases (hyperglycemia) or decreases (hypoglycemic), drug overdose, seizures, etc.


Different treatments are there depending upon the causes of coma. If there is a brain infection then some medicines are given to the patient, surgery may also be needed when there is swelling in the brain or removing tumors. Some of the life-sustaining treatments are also given such as ventilators for better oxygen supply or feeding tubes are used to provide nutrients, etc. In some cases, comatose patients recover after a few days or months but in other cases due to serious brain injuries patients never recover.

Leave a Reply