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Diabetic Ketoacidosis: An Overview

Posted on Nov 4th, 2001 in News & Articles

Diabetic ketoacidosis is when you have acids, called ketones that build up in your blood supply, which signals that your diabetes is not under control. Ketones are found in your urine when you are not getting enough insulin into your body.

These acids can be fatal because they poison your body. People who have Type 2 diabetes rarely see this happen, but if you have Type 1 diabetes this is a real problem.

Type 2 diabetics do sometimes experience a similar condition called hyperosmolar nonketotic coma, but it is most common in elderly diabetics. Learning about the symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis is very important for Type 1 diabetics to help prevent a diabetic coma or even death. Here are some of the symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis.

  • Urinating more frequently than normal
  • Extreme thirst or dry mouth
  • High levels of blood glucose
  • Increased levels of ketones in the urine

When these symptoms occur, they progress to other symptoms, which are more serious. These symptoms are:

  • Feeling tired all of the time
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Skin that is flushed and dry
  • Breath that has a fruity odor
  • Confusion and inattention
  • Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain

Nausea is one symptom that can be caused by many things, but if you continue to vomit for longer than two hours, you need to call your physician or go to the emergency room.

Testing for ketones takes a simple urine test using a test strip. Your physician will tell you how often and when you should test your urine for ketones. If you have a cold or the flu, then you should test your urine every four to six hours and when your glucose levels are higher than 240mg/dl. Your physician can advise you on what level of ketones is dangerous for you.

Some of the reasons why your ketones may be elevated are:

  • There is not enough insulin in your body. If you do not have enough insulin, you body will start breaking down fat to use as an energy source. This can occur if you do not inject enough insulin or your body is using more than normal due to illness.
  • If you miss a meal or are sick and not eating your ketones may become high.
  • You are having an insulin reaction. If you have high ketones in the morning this may mean that you had an insulin reaction during the night.

If you have high ketones, you need to see your physician or go to the hospital immediately. Learn the warning signs and check your blood sugar and ketones as directed by your physician.

Diabetic ketoacidosis is not something that you should shrug off. If you have any symptoms of this condition, you need to contact your physician immediately or go to the emergency room. It could be the difference between life and death.

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