(See also Diabetes Mellitus Diabetes Mellitus (DM) Diabetes mellitus is a disorder in which the body does not produce enough or respond normally to insulin, causing blood sugar (glucose) levels to be abnormally high. Urination and thirst are... read more .)
People who go on a major alcohol binge often vomit repeatedly and stop eating. If the vomiting and starvation go on for a day or more, the liver's normal stores of sugar (glucose) decrease. The low glucose stores combined with lack of food intake cause low blood glucose levels. The low blood glucose levels decrease insulin secretion. Without insulin, most cells cannot get energy from the glucose that is in the blood. Cells still need energy to survive, so 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). This ketoacidosis is similar to the ketoacidosis that occurs in diabetes except that, unlike in diabetic ketoacidosis Diabetic Ketoacidosis 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... read more , blood glucose levels are low.
Symptoms of alcoholic ketoacidosis include
Breathing tends to become deep and rapid as the body attempts to correct the blood’s acidity Acidosis Acidosis is caused by an overproduction of acid that builds up in the blood or an excessive loss of bicarbonate from the blood (metabolic acidosis) or by a buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood... read more . Similar symptoms in a person with alcoholism may result from acute pancreatitis Acute Pancreatitis Acute pancreatitis is sudden inflammation of the pancreas that may be mild or life threatening but usually subsides. Gallstones and alcohol abuse are the main causes of acute pancreatitis. Severe... read more , methanol (wood alcohol) or ethylene glycol (antifreeze) poisoning or diabetic ketoacidosis Diabetic Ketoacidosis 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... read more . The doctor must exclude these other causes before diagnosing alcoholic ketoacidosis.
To treat alcoholic ketoacidosis, doctors give people thiamin (vitamin B1) by vein (intravenously) followed by intravenous saline and glucose solution. Other vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, are added to the saline solution.