Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious complication of diabetes that occurs when your body produces very high levels of blood acids called ketones. Diabetic ketoacidosis develops when you have too little insulin in your body.
Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious complication of diabetes that occurs when your body produces very high levels of blood acids called ketones.
Diabetic ketoacidosis develops when you have too little insulin in your body. Insulin normally plays a key role in helping sugar (glucose) — a major source of energy for your muscles and other tissues — enter your cells. Without enough insulin, your body begins to breaks down fat as an alternate fuel. In turn, this process produces toxic acids in the bloodstream called ketones, eventually leading to diabetic ketoacidosis if untreated.
If you have diabetes or you're at risk of diabetes, learn the warning signs of diabetic ketoacidosis — and know when to seek emergency care.
Diabetic ketoacidosis signs and symptoms often develop quickly, sometimes within 24 hours. You may notice:
More specific signs of diabetic ketoacidosis — which can be detected through home blood and urine testing kits — include:
Sugar is a main source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and other tissues. Normally, sugar enters your cells with the help of insulin. If you don't have enough insulin in your body, your body won't be able to use sugar for energy. This prompts the release of hormones that break down fat as an alternate fuel. In turn, this process produces toxic acids known as ketones. Excess ketones accumulate in the blood and eventually "spill over" into the urine.
Diabetic ketoacidosis is usually triggered by:
Other possible triggers of diabetic ketoacidosis may include:
The risk of diabetic ketoacidosis is highest if you:
However, diabetic ketoacidosis can occur in other situations — whether you have type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes. In a few cases, diabetic ketoacidosis is the first sign that a person has diabetes.
Diabetic ketoacidosis is treated with fluids, electrolytes — such as sodium, potassium and chloride — and insulin. Perhaps surprisingly, the most common complications of diabetic ketoacidosis are related to this lifesaving treatment:
Left untreated, the risks are much greater. Diabetic ketoacidosis can lead to loss of consciousness. Eventually, diabetic ketoacidosis can be fatal.
If your doctor suspects diabetic ketoacidosis, he or she will do a physical exam and various blood tests. In some cases, additional tests may be needed to help the doctor determine what triggered the episode of diabetic ketoacidosis or what damage the ketoacidosis may have caused.
Blood tests used in the diagnosis of diabetic ketoacidosis will measure:
Your doctor also may order tests to identify underlying health problems that may have contributed to diabetic ketoacidosis and check for complications. Tests may include:
If you're diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis, you may be treated in the emergency room or admitted to the hospital. Treatment is usually a three-pronged approach:
As your body chemistry returns to normal, your doctor will consider what may have triggered the episode of diabetic ketoacidosis. Depending on the circumstances, you may need additional treatment. For example, if you have undiagnosed diabetes, your doctor will help you create a diabetes treatment plan. If your doctor suspects a bacterial infection, he or she may prescribe antibiotics. If a heart attack seems possible, your doctor may recommend further evaluation of your heart.
There's much you can do to prevent diabetic ketoacidosis and other diabetes complications.
Diabetes complications are scary. But don't let fear keep you from taking good care of yourself. Follow your diabetes treatment plan carefully, and ask your diabetes treatment team for help when you need it.
If you would like to know the latest treatment and management strategies, using conventional and scientifically backed complementary medicine and therapies, plus an assortment of helpful tips, hints and lifestyle remedies which will improve your overall quality of life, then call into our pharmacy and we'll be delighted to help.