Diabetic Ketoacidosis | Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Complications

By dLife Editors

Diabetic Ketoacidosis

In diabetes, blood glucose is not able to reach the body cells where it can be utilized to produce energy. In such cases, the cells start to break down fat to produce energy. This process produces a chemical called ketone.[1] The buildup of ketones makes the blood more acidic. When the blood ketone level gets too high, a condition develops called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). It is a serious condition that can lead to coma or even death. DKA can happen to anyone with diabetes though it is more common in people with type 1 diabetes.[2] In this article, we’ll explore the causes, symptoms treatment options, and complications of this life-threatening condition.

Causes of Diabetic Ketoacidosis

DKA results from inadequate insulin levels that cause the cells to burn fat for energy. Ketones are released into the blood when fats are broken down. In people with diabetes, an underlying problem often triggers the onset of DKA. The following problems or conditions may contribute to DKA:

  • An illness where the body produces higher levels of stress hormones like cortisol or adrenalin; these illnesses have a countereffect on the action of insulin (conditions like pneumonia or a urinary tract infection are common culprits)
  • Inadequate insulin due to missed doses or more requirements
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Less food intake (this could be caused by sickness, fasting, or an eating disorder; bulimia, for example, produces excess ketones)
  • Medications like corticosteroids and diuretics
  • Pregnancy
  • Heart attack [3],[4]

Symptoms of Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Symptoms of DKA typically evolve over a period of 24 hours. Some symptoms to be aware of include the following:

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