Ever Heard of Diabetic Ketoacidosis?

Diabetic Ketoacidosis is a health complication which a diabetic or nondiabetic patient could develop. It occurs when the body secretes high amounts of the acid, ketones. This condition develops when the body is unable to produce adequate insulin that is needed to aid glucose absorption into the body cells. When there is an inadequacy of insulin to aid absorption, the body starts to break down fat to be used as fuel; it is this process that causes acids to build up in the bloodstream. Persons who suffer from Diabetic Ketoacidosis may experience excessive consumption of water due to excessive thirst, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, fruity-scented breath, frequent urination, shortness of breath, lethargy, and confusion. We’ll further discuss the symptoms.

What are the Symptoms of Diabetic Ketoacidosis?

  • Early Signs and Symptoms
  • Thirst due to dehydration
  • High blood glucose (sugar) levels
  • The presence of ketones in the urine
  • Excessive urination because the kidneys try to rid the body of excess glucose, and water is excreted along with the glucose

Some other symptoms of ketoacidosis occur as the condition progresses

  • Severe fatigue
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • A fruity mouth odor caused by ketones
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Flushing of the skin
  • Dry skin
  • Mental status changes such as confusion difficulty concentrating

Diabetic ketoacidosis can be detected by conducting home blood and urine tests. If one’s ketone level in the urine is high and the blood sugar level is high, then a doctor’s attention should be sought. The cells of the body need an energy source, and this energy source is sugar which is turned into glucose for the body’s absorption. Glucose cannot, however, be absorbed into the body without insulin, and if the body is unable to produce insulin, there would be a problem with glucose absorption. When there is no insulin, the body starts to release hormones that would break down fat — it is this process that produces ketones acids which start to build up in the blood and urine with time. An infection or an illness can trigger diabetic ketoacidosis. Such an infection could cause the body to produce hormones that can counter the effects of insulin — hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Pneumonia and urinary tract infections are some of the conditions that can trigger diabetic ketoacidosis. Inadequate insulin shots can also trigger diabetic ketoacidosis as the body does not have enough insulin to enable the cells to absorb and store glucose. Alcohol abuse, drug abuse, heart attack, physical trauma, and emotional trauma can also trigger Diabetic Ketoacidosis. It is important to treat Diabetic Ketoacidosis the moment it is diagnosed as it may cause severe health complications that may be life-threatening.

Tests for Diabetic Ketoacidosis

The first test, usually is a urine test.

If the urine is positive for ketones, then beta-hydroxybutyrate is measured in the blood. This is the most common ketone measured. The other main ketone is acetoacetate.

Other Tests for Diabetic Ketoacidosis

  • Arterial blood gas
  • Blood glucose test
  • Blood pressure measurement
  • Osmolality blood test

Here are some Health Complications of Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Swelling in the Brain (Cerebral Edema)

the human brain

This is a complication that could cause brain damage or death if not quickly attended to. Cerebral edema a buildup of fluid in the brain, causing the brain to swell. Its symptoms are drowsiness, a headache, restlessness, irritability, and seizures, one may most likely have cerebral edema. A patient who has a swelling in the brain would most likely be admitted and treated with mannitol medication which helps to reduce the swelling. A patient with cerebral edema will also have to be monitored closely until the swelling reduces. Surgery can be needed in severe cases of cerebral edema.


A person who has Diabetic Ketoacidosis will become dehydrated as a result of the kidneys’ inability to store extra sugar.

Acute Kidney Failure

Dehydration is harmful to the body as it may cause the kidneys to fail. The kidneys are responsible for detoxifying the blood and ridding it of waste products. Persons who have acute kidney failure may experience edema (swelling) in the arms and legs (fluid build up), fatigue, confusion, and discomfort. To treat kidney failure caused by Diabetic Ketoacidosis, one should undergo dialysis until dehydration is fully treated. Dialysis helps to rid the blood of waste products. Once dehydration is treated, the kidney may start to recover so that one would no longer need dialysis.

Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome

When one has Diabetic Ketoacidosis, the body becomes unstable, so does the bodily fluids which can start to build up in areas that they should not. Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) can also be called wet lung; it occurs when fluid builds up in the air sacs of the lungs (alveoli) which should contain oxygen, thereby, depriving the body organs of oxygen that they need to function properly. Persons who suffer from ARDS may experience shortness of breath, low blood pressure, labored and rapid breathing, confusion and lethargy. People with acute respiratory distress syndrome can be treated by using a ventilator until they recover.

Hypokalemia (Low Potassium Levels)

Hypokalemia is a condition in which the electrolyte potassium levels in the blood get low. The fluids used in treating persons with Diabetic Ketoacidosis may cause one’s potassium levels to reduce. Potassium is, however, an essential electrolyte that enables the nerve and muscle cell function properly. Hypokalemia can impair the heart, muscle and nerve functions. Persons who suffer from mild hypokalemia may experience palpitations, constipation, body weakness, fatigue, and muscle cramps while persons who suffer from semi-severe hypokalemia may experience lazy bowels, muscle tissue breakdown, respiratory failure, and paralysis. In severe cases, one may experience abnormal heart rhythms such as tachycardia (fast heartbeat), bradycardia (slow heartbeat), premature heartbeats and fibrillation. It is advisable to treat Diabetic Ketoacidosis so as to avoid these health complications.


Some people who have diabetic ketoacidosis may not exhibit symptoms that would enable them to seek treatment. They could suddenly lose consciousness and eventually die if immediate medical attention is not gotten. So, it is advisable to avoid missing any insulin shots and always remember to monitor insulin levels to avoid fatal consequences.

How to Avoid Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Manage Diabetes Seriously

Diabetes should be managed with all seriousness. Because the body can no longer regulate the insulin levels, it is advisable to have a healthy diet and exercise regularly. This helps keep the body healthy. Medications should also be taken as directed.

Monitor Blood Sugar Levels

Extremely low or high blood sugar levels can be a problem. It is important to check and monitor the blood sugar level as it may drop or spike. Some diabetics check up to four times daily.

Administer Insulin Accurately

It is important to adjust and administer insulin dosage depending on one’s blood sugar level, how stressed one is, how active one gets, and one’s diet.

Check Ketone Levels

Ketone levels should be checked regularly. There are test kits that can be used for this. A person with low ketone levels may need to take more insulin as directed by a doctor.

Final Words…

Diabetic Ketoacidosis is a complication one may develop from the inability to produce insulin needed to aid glucose absorption into the cells of the body. It is highly important be vigilant and seek immediate medical care is one starts to experience the symptoms of Diabetic Ketoacidosis in order to avoid fatal health complications.