Diabetic ketoacidosis

Other names: Ketoacidosis, diabetic


Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious complication of Diabetes that occurs when your body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones. It develops when your body is unable to produce enough insulin, leading to the breakdown of fat as an alternate fuel and the buildup of toxic acids in the bloodstream called ketones.



Diabetic ketoacidosis is usually triggered by illnesses, problems with insulin therapy, stress, trauma, high fever, surgery, heart attack, or alcohol/drug abuse.


The risk of Diabetic ketoacidosis is highest in individuals with Type 1 diabetes who are younger than age 19 and frequently miss insulin doses.


Complications of Diabetic ketoacidosis treatment include low blood sugar, low potassium, and swelling in the brain. If left untreated, it can lead to loss of consciousness and be fatal.


When seeking medical help for Diabetic ketoacidosis, be prepared to provide details about your signs and symptoms, Diabetes diagnosis, recent blood sugar and ketone levels, appetite status, breathing difficulties, recent illnesses or infections, stress/trauma history, alcohol/drug use, Diabetes treatment plan adherence, and overall Diabetes management.


Blood tests measuring blood sugar level, ketone level, and blood acidity are used to diagnose Diabetic ketoacidosis. Additional tests like blood electrolyte tests, urinalysis, chest X-ray, or electrocardiogram may be ordered to check for complications.


Treatment involves fluid replacement to rehydrate the body, electrolyte replacement to maintain normal cellular function, and insulin therapy to reverse the processes causing Diabetic ketoacidosis. Additional treatment may be needed based on underlying triggers or complications.


To prevent Diabetic ketoacidosis:


  1. What is diabetic ketoacidosis?

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious complication of Diabetes characterized by high blood acid levels called ketones due to insufficient insulin production.

  1. What are the symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis?

Symptoms include excessive thirst, frequent urination, nausea/vomiting, abdominal pain, weakness/fatigue, shortness of breath, fruity-scented breath, and confusion.

  1. When should I see a doctor for diabetic ketoacidosis?

Seek medical help if you experience vomiting without tolerance for food/liquid or have high blood sugar/ketone levels that don't respond to home treatment.

  1. What causes diabetic ketoacidosis?

Triggers include illnesses like infections or pneumonia and issues with insulin therapy such as missed doses.

  1. Who is at higher risk for diabetic ketoacidosis?

Individuals with Type 1 diabetes who are younger than 19 years old and frequently miss insulin doses are at higher risk.

  1. What complications can arise from treating diabetic ketoacidosis?

Treatment complications may include low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), low potassium (hypokalemia), and swelling in the brain (cerebral edema).

  1. How is diabetic ketoacidosis diagnosed?

Diagnosis involves blood tests for glucose/ketone levels and acidity. Additional tests like electrolyte tests or imaging may be done to check for complications.

  1. What treatments are used for diabetic ketoacidosis?

Treatment includes fluid/electrolyte replacement and insulin therapy. Additional treatments may be necessary based on underlying triggers or complications.

  1. How can diabetic ketoacidosis be prevented?

Prevention strategies include managing Diabetes effectively through lifestyle changes and regular monitoring of blood sugar/ketone levels.

  1. When should emergency care be sought for suspected diabetic ketoacidosis?

Emergency care should be sought if high blood sugar levels with excess ketones are present along with symptoms like vomiting or breathing difficulties.