What is diabetic ketoacidosis?


Know the basics

What is diabetic ketoacidosis?

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a severe complication of diabetes happening when your body produces too much blood acids called ketones. This condition will develop when you do not produce enough insulin to absorb glucose into your body cells for energy.

How common is diabetic ketoacidosis?

Diabetic ketoacidosis commonly affects people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It sometimes affects who used to be unaware they had diabetes. Young adults and children are also in the risk of getting diabetic ketoacidosis. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis?

The common symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis are:

  • Large amounts of urine
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling sick and tired
  • Abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • An increase in your blood sugar and/or ketone levels, there are some available tests you can do by yourself.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • If you feel ill or stressed or you have had a recent illness or injury, you can check your blood sugar level with an over-the-counter urine ketones testing kit.
  • You are vomiting and unable to tolerate food or liquid
  • Your blood sugar level is higher than your target range and home remedies do not work
  • Your urine ketone level is moderate or high

Call emergency immediately:

  • If your blood sugar level is persistently higher than 300 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 16.7 millimoles per liter (mmol/L)
  • If there are ketones in your urine and can’t reach level advice.
  • If you have more than one symptom of diabetic ketoacidosis, such as confusion, excessive thirst, frequent urination, nausea and vomiting, tummy pain, shortness of breath, fruity odor to the breath.

Know the causes

What causes diabetic ketoacidosis?

The lack of insulin will stop the blood sugar to absorb into your cells and muscles to bring you energy. Diabetic ketoacidosis is also caused by:

  • Illness or infections can make the body produce more other hormones such as adrenaline or cortisol, affecting the working of insulin and causing diabetic ketoacidosis.
  • Effects from insulin therapy can decrease the amount of insulin in your body, causing diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Physical or mental disorder
  • Heart attack
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Certain medications such as corticosteroids and some diuretics

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for diabetic ketoacidosis?

There are many risk factors for diabetic ketoacidosis, such as:

  • You are having type 1 diabetes
  • You often miss insulin treatment

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is diabetic ketoacidosis diagnosed?

  • Blood tests to measure your glucose level, ketone level and blood acidity
  • Blood electrolyte test
  • Urinalysis
  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram: this is to measure the electrical activity of the heart

How is diabetic ketoacidosis treated?

Your doctor will deliver these substances into your veins to make up for the decreasing insulin:

  • Electrolytes is a mineral that contains an electric charge such as sodium, potassium and choride
  • Fluids to rehydrate your body
  • Insulin

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage diabetic ketoacidosis?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with diabetic ketoacidosis:

  • Manage your diabetes with a healthy diet and daily physical activities, also take prescribed medications under doctor’s instruction
  • Manage your blood sugar and ketone level, more often if you are ill or feeling stressed
  • Control the insulin dosage
  • Get prepared for diabetic ketoacidosis if you notice any sudden changes in the blood sugar level or ketone level.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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