What is diabetic ketoacidosis?
Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life-threatening condition caused by dangerously high blood sugar levels. Your blood sugar levels become high because your body does not have enough insulin. Insulin helps move sugar out of the blood so it can be used for energy. The lack of insulin forces your body to use fat instead of sugar for energy. As fats are broken down, they leave chemicals called ketones that build up in your blood. Ketones are dangerous at high levels.
What increases my risk for diabetic ketoacidosis?
- Not enough insulin
- Poorly controlled diabetes
- Infection or other illness
- Heart attack, stroke, trauma, or surgery
- Certain medicines such as steroids or blood pressure medicines
- Illegal drugs such as cocaine
- Emotional stress
What are the signs and symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis?
- More thirst and more frequent urination than usual
- Abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting
- Blurry vision
- Dry mouth, eyes, and skin, or your face is red and warm
- Fast, deep breathing, and a faster heartbeat than normal for you
- Weak, tired, and confused
- Fruity, sweet breath
- Mood changes and irritability
How is diabetic ketoacidosis treated?
Diabetic ketacidosis can be life-threatening. You must get immediate medical attention. The goal of treatment is to replace lost body fluids, and to bring your blood sugar level back to normal.
How can I help prevent diabetic ketoacidosis?
The best way to prevent ketacidosis is to control your diabetes. Ask your healthcare provider for more information on how to manage your diabetes. The following may help decrease your risk for ketacidosis:
- Monitor your blood sugar levels closely if you have an infection, are stressed, sick, or experience trauma. Check your blood sugar levels often. You may need to check at least 3 times each day. If your blood sugar level is too high, give yourself insulin as directed by your healthcare provider.
- Manage your sick days. When you are sick, you may not eat as much as you normally would. You may need to change the amount of insulin you give yourself. You may need to check your blood sugar level more often than usual. Make a plan with your healthcare provider about how to manage your diabetes when you are sick.
- Check your ketones as directed. Follow your healthcare provider's instructions about when you should check your blood or urine for ketones. Your healthcare provider may give you a machine to check your blood ketones. Urine ketones can be checked with sticks you dip in your urine. Do not exercise if you have ketones in your urine or blood.
- Know how to treat ketacidosis. If you have signs of ketacidosis, drink more liquids that do not contain sugar, such as water. Take your insulin as directed by your healthcare provider and go to the nearest emergency room.