Everything You Need To Know About Diabetic Ketoacidosis & How It Affects Your Body

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Anyone who has had to deal with diabetes ketoacidosis will tell you it’s unlike any flu they’ve ever had! Describing it to be an overwhelming feeling of lethargy, unquenchable thirst, and unrelenting vomiting diabetes ketoacidosis (DKA) is a serious complication of type 1 diabetes and, much less commonly, of type 2 diabetes. DKA occurs when blood sugar is very high and acidic substances called ketones build up to dangerous levels in the human body.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there was a 6% rise in DKA hospitalizations annually between the years 2009 and 2014 across all age groups, with the highest rates among people under 45 years old. With these alarming numbers, it is important to get all the information about the condition and look out for signs to nip it in the bud! 

What is diabetes ketoacidosis (DKA)?

Ketone is a chemical that the body creates when it breaks down fat to use for energy in the absence of enough insulin to use glucose (body’s normal source of energy). When these ketones build up in the blood, they make it more acidic which may be considered as warning signs that your diabetes is out of control or that you are getting sick. High levels of ketones can also poison the body. When these levels get too high, a person can develop DKA. DKA may happen to anyone with diabetes, though it is rare in people with type 2 diabetes

What are the causes of diabetes ketoacidosis (DKA)?

According to the American Diabetes Association, there are three basic reasons for moderate or large amounts of ketones in your body:

Not enough insulin: As DKA usually happens when your body doesn’t have enough insulin, not injecting enough insulin can be a major cause! 

Not enough food: Not consuming enough food results in your body having to break down fat for energy, which in turn produces more ketones! High levels of ketones may also occur when you miss a meal.

Insulin reaction (low blood glucose): A clog in one’s insulin pump or an insulin reaction while being asleep may cause a rise in ketones levels.

What are the warning signs you should be looking out for?

Many experts advise checking your urine for ketones when your blood glucose is more than 240 mg/dl or you have symptoms of high blood sugar such as dry mouth, extreme thirst, or frequent urination. DKA usually develops slowly, but when vomiting occurs, it can become a life-threatening condition just in a few hours. Seek immediate help or call your doctor right away if you have any/or more than one symptom: 

  • Extreme abdominal pain.
  • Fruity breath. 
  • Being in a state of confusion, or feeling disoriented.
  • Difficulty breathing.

Though DKA is a serious condition, it can be prevented. There are treatments available for DKA like fluid replacement therapy, insulin therapy, electrolyte replacement which usually involves a combination of approaches to normalize blood sugar and insulin levels. Follow the treatment plan recommended by your doctor and be proactive about your health. Discuss with your doctor if something isn’t working for you and they can adjust your treatment or come up with solutions that may be better suited for managing your diabetes.