Ketoacidosis

What is Ketoacidosis?
If there is insufficient insulin present to transfer the blood sugars into the body's cells to use as fuel, the glucose levels will rise whilst the body is starved of fuel. In this situation, the body turns to alternative fuelling mechanisms, specifically the burning of fatty acids.


What causes Ketoacidosis

Ketoacidosis occurs when the body has no insulin or too little insulin for an extended period of time. This can occur if diabetes goes undiagnosed in the patient for a long while, or, in the case of Type 1, insulin injections are missed or have been persistently injected at too low a dosage.

Type 2 diabetics can also experience ketoacidosis under specific, extreme circumstances and so they should also be aware of the signs and the dangers, just in case.

Ketoacidosis Symptoms

Initially, the combination of high ketones in the blood coupled with the high levels of glucose molecules will make sufferers pass an abnormally large amount of urine, which consequently will cause them to be thirsty and dehydrated. This is called polyuria and is often associated with diabetes. There are more symptoms as the condition progresses.

  • Polyuria
  • Severe thirst
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea (a feeling of sickness)
  • Heightened breathing rate

If left untreated, further symptoms may occur, including:

  • Heightened heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness or light-headedness caused by a lowered blood pressure
  • The smell of ketones on your breath (described as smelling like pear drops or nail varnish)
  • Unconsciousness

Dealing With Ketoacidosis/What to do if you think you have it:

It is advisable that people with diabetes check their ketone levels occasionally, and keep some testing strips to hand in case you begin to feel the symptoms related to ketoacidosis.

You can buy urine or blood based test strips that reveal the concentration of ketones in your system.

If your ketone level is higher than 0.6 mmol/L then this is abnormally high, and you could be in danger of progressing to ketoacidosis. It is advised to drink plenty of water to battle the dehydration, carry on with your usual medication routine and re-check every few hours. If the concentration level rises and continues to rise, then you should seek medical advice.

If your ketone level is above 1.5 mmol/L then you should drink plenty of water and seek medical advice immediately.

Other diabetic symptoms/complications to be aware of