Diabetic ketoacidosis is an acute complication of diabetes that occurs mostly in type 1 diabetes mellitus.
Symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and a characteristic fruity odor on the breath.
Diabetic ketoacidosis is diagnosed by blood tests that show high levels of glucose, ketones, and acid.
Treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis involves intravenous fluid replacement and insulin.
Without treatment, diabetic ketoacidosis can progress to coma and death.
There are two types of diabetes mellitus, type 1 and type 2. In both types, the amount of sugar (glucose) in the blood is elevated.
Glucose is one of the body's main fuels. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas. helps glucose move from the blood into the cells. Once glucose is inside the cells, it is either converted to energy or stored as fat or glycogen until it is needed.
When there is not enough insulin, most cells cannot use the glucose that is in the blood. Because cells still need energy to survive, they switch to a back-up mechanism to obtain energy. Fat cells begin breaking down, producing compounds called ketones. Ketones provide some energy to cells but also make the blood too acidic (ketoacidosis).
Ketoacidosis that occurs in people with diabetes is called diabetic ketoacidosis. Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs mainly in people who have type 1 diabetes because their body produces little or no insulin. However, rarely, some people with type 2 diabetes develop ketoacidosis. People who abuse alcohol also can develop ketoacidosis (alcoholic ketoacidosis).