Diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high.
What is diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)?
Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious complication of diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more . It's often called DKA.
With DKA, your blood sugar goes up, acids called ketones build up in your blood, you lose a lot of fluid, and your body chemistry doesn't work right. You need treatment right away.
People with type 1 diabetes are more likely to have DKA
DKA may be the first sign that you have diabetes
Treatments include fluid and insulin given by vein
Without treatment, DKA can cause coma and death
What causes DKA?
Your body needs insulin to use blood sugar for energy. If you don't have enough insulin (for example, because you have untreated type 1 diabetes Diabetes Diabetes is a disease in which your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. You get diabetes if your body's normal way of controlling blood sugar isn't working right. There are 2 types of... read more ), your blood sugar goes up a lot because the sugar can't get into your cells. Your body burns fat for energy instead. Broken-down fat goes to your liver and is turned into acids called ketones. The ketones build up in your blood and urine.
A high level of ketones in your blood can make you very sick.
If you have diabetes, you're more likely to get DKA if:
You stop taking your insulin
Stop following your diet so the insulin you're taking isn't enough
You get sick, and your body is under extra stress
Common triggers of DKA include:
Infections, such as pneumonia Pneumonia Pneumonia is an infection deep in your lungs. The infection involves the small air sacs in your lungs (alveoli). Pneumonia is different from infection of the air passages (bronchi) in your lungs... read more or urinary tract infection Bladder Infection Your bladder is the hollow organ that holds urine until you're ready to urinate (pee). A bladder infection is usually caused by bacteria. Bladder infections are also called cystitis. Bladder... read more
Drinking too much alcohol or taking street drugs
What are the symptoms of DKA?
Urinating (peeing) more than usual
Losing weight for no clear reason
Feeling sick to your stomach or throwing up
Feeling weak and tired
Deep, fast breathing
Fruity-smelling breath (like nail polish remover)
DKA can lead to coma or death if not treated.
How can doctors tell if I have DKA?
Blood tests to check your blood sugar, the level of ketones in your blood, and levels of certain electrolytes Overview of Electrolytes Electrolytes are minerals that circulate in your blood. These minerals are also in your stomach juices, in your stool (poop), in your urine, and inside your body's tissues. Salt (sodium) is... read more (minerals, such as sodium and potassium, that help with many important body functions)
To find problems that might be causing your DKA, doctors may do tests such as:
ECG Electrocardiography Electrocardiography is a test that measures your heart’s electrical activity. It's quick, painless, and harmless. The results of that test are shown in an electrocardiogram. It looks like a... read more (a test that measures your heart’s electrical currents and records them on a piece of paper)
How do doctors treat DKA?
DKA is a medical emergency. You'll need to go to the hospital and may need to stay in the intensive care unit (ICU).
Doctors treat DKA with:
Fluids and electrolytes into your vein
Insulin into your vein
Blood tests every few hours to check your sugar, ketones, and electrolyte levels to be sure they're going back to normal
Doctors also treat whatever other problem caused the DKA.