Diabetes mellitus may arise abruptly and decompensate suddenly, leading to a hyperglycaemic hyperosmolar state. Coma often ensues, although this usually reverses after the metabolic abnormalities have resolved. Acute symptomatic seizures can also occur in patients who are conscious, although these usually resolve after osmolarity and glycaemia have normalised. We describe an elderly woman who failed to regain vigilance despite prompt treatment; the cause was an unusual non-convulsive status epilepticus arising from the mesial temporal lobe and promoting a progressive and selective hippocampal involvement. During follow-up, her seizures recurred after stopping antiseizure medication and she developed hippocampal sclerosis, although she subsequently became seizure-free with antiseizure medications. Patients who are unresponsive in a hyperglycaemic hyperosmolar state may be having subclinical epileptiform discharges and risk developing permanent brain damage and long-term epilepsy.