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Diabetic Ketoacidosis

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Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious complication that arises in diabetics. It can lead to coma and even death, if not treated immediately. The following paragraphs will discuss more about this dangerous condition and help you understand the signs of diabetic ketoacidosis in an emergency.

What is Diabetic Ketoacidosis?

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious and possibly fatal complication of diabetes mellitus. It is associated with type 1 diabetes. Under normal conditions, the body breaks down sugar for energy. In order to metabolize glucose, insulin is required to help sugar enter the cells. When the level of insulin falls, glucose cannot enter the cells. To produce energy, the body starts breaking down an alternative of glucose, that is, fat. When fat is broken down, it leads to an end product of a toxin called ketone. This leads to diabetic ketoacidosis.

This accumulation of ketones within the body is very dangerous for the body and can be detected in urine.

Ketones are acidic in nature and their appearance in urine indicates one’s diabetes is going out of control and they require immediate medical attention. High levels of ketones in the body poison the body, leading to coma and even death. One needs to be hospitalized immediately to treat diabetic ketoacidosis.

Warning Signs of Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a slow developing condition. The symptoms take about 24 hours to appear. If one develops vomiting, they should immediately seek medical help. Some of the symptoms of ketoacidosis include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Very dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Fruity breath
  • Mental confusion
  • High level of blood glucose
  • High level of ketone in urine

One should seek immediate medical help, if they suffer from vomiting and can’t tolerate any food or drink. Visit the nearest emergency care hospital, as untreated ketoacidosis can lead to death.

What Leads to Diabetic Ketoacidosis?

There are many causes of diabetic ketoacidosis. These causes include:

  • An infection that leads changes in hormonal levels of the body. Certain hormones like cortisol and adrenaline can trigger diabetic ketoacidosis.
  • Missing a dose of insulin injection or insufficient insulin dose can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis.
  • Person under great stress, high fever, suffering from alcohol or drug (cocaine) abuse, or heart attack can develop diabetic ketoacidosis.

How is Diabetic Ketoacidosis Detected?

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A sample of urine will be taken to check for ketoacidosis. Blood tests are used to assess:

  • Metabolic function with potassium blood test
  • Aciditity of blood with arterial blood gas
  • Pancreatic function with help of amylase test

An X ray may also be carried out to check for pneumonia as it is one of the causes of diabetic ketoacidosis.

How is Diabetic Ketoacidosis Controlled?

There are a variety of treatments that help normalize insulin level and bring ketones released in the body under control. Treatment plan includes:

  • Fluid replacement to reduce dehydration and replacing the lost fluids and electrolytes.
  • Insulin therapy to normalize insulin level in the body
  • otassium level is maintained to prevent hypokalemia and prevent irregularities in heart rate.

If one is suffering from any infection, it is treated with the help of antibiotic therapy.

Diabetics should take their condition seriously. They should control their diabetes and monitor their blood sugar levels regularly. The insulin dose should never be missed and adjust the dosage under a doctor’s guidance when blood sugar levels fluctuate. There are many over-the-counter ketones test kit available that can be used to monitor ketone levels in the body. If you or someone you know is a diabetic, and any of the above mentioned symptoms are spotted, visit the doctor immediately. It is very important to treat diabetic ketoacidosis as soon as possible to prevent fatal consequences.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 05, 2015

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