Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a serious and life-threatening complication of both Type 1 Diabetes and Type 2 Diabetes. Despite the condition being preventable, DKA can still cause hospitalization and death in diabetics due to a lack of awareness. In this article, we discuss everything you need to know about diabetic ketoacidosis – its causes, symptoms, how it is diagnosed, treatment, and how to prevent DKA.
What is Diabetic Ketoacidosis?
DKA is more common in Type 1 Diabetics than Type 2 Diabetics. It is a medical emergency that can result in hospitalization and may prove to be fatal if not treated immediately.
What Are the Causes of Diabetic Ketoacidosis?
Missing doses of insulin shots
Excessive alcohol consumption
Being ill or having an infection
What are the Symptoms of Diabetic Ketoacidosis?
The following are the warning signs of diabetic ketoacidosis:
- Extreme thirst and dry mouth
- Frequent urination
- Heavy breathing or shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Dry, hot, or flushed skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Confusion or the appearance of being “drunk”
- Fruity-smelling breath
How is Diabetic Ketoacidosis Diagnosed?
- Random Blood Sugar (RBS) test to check for high blood glucose levels.
- Serum Ketone test to detect and evaluate the levels of ketones present in your blood.
- Arterial Blood Gas (ABG) Analysis which measures the pH levels of your blood (to check for acidosis), blood oxygen levels, and bicarbonate (HCO3) levels.
How is Diabetic Ketoacidosis Treated?
- Lowering blood glucose levels by administering insulin.
- Rehydration by administering oral or intravenous (IV) fluids.
- Eliminating ketones from your body through urine (achieved with insulin therapy and fluid replacement).
- Improving blood circulation by restoring blood volume.
- Restoring electrolyte balance by administering sodium and potassium.
- Normalizing blood pH value by administering bicarbonate infusion.
What are Diabetic Ketoacidosis Complications?
- Elevated blood potassium levels (hyperkalemia)
- Hypovolemic shock (organ failure caused by poor circulation and low blood volume)
- Blood clots which could lead to stroke or heart attack
- Difficulty breathing or respiratory distress
- Accumulation of fluid in lungs (pulmonary edema)
- Kidney damage
- Low blood sugar levels, caused by high dose or rapid insulin administration.
- Decreased blood potassium levels, caused by potassium entering your cells after insulin administration.
- Edema or swelling in the brain, caused by a rapid drop in blood sugar levels.
How can Diabetic Ketoacidosis be Prevented?
The core principle of diabetic ketoacidosis prevention is effective diabetes management. The following tips may help in the successful prevention of DKA:
- Eating well-balanced, diabetic-friendly meals.
- Regular home monitoring of your blood glucose levels using a glucometer.
- Taking the appropriate and prescribed doses of insulin and other hypoglycemic medication consistently.
- Eating on time and not skipping meals.
- Frequent monitoring of blood glucose and urine ketone levels when you are ill or have an infection.
When to See a Doctor?
- You are vomiting and cannot eat or drink anything.
- Your blood glucose levels are over the target range, and are not responding to treatment at home.
- The level of ketones in your urine is moderate or high.
Don’t Have Time To Read?
- Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) occurs in diabetes, when your body does not have enough insulin to convert blood glucose into energy. As a result your body uses stored fat for fuel, releasing ketones into your blood.
- When ketones accumulate in your blood, it can become acidic and lead to DKA
- Diabetic ketoacidosis can be caused by missing insulin shots, skipping meals, illness or infections, prolonged stress levels, excessive alcohol consumption, or eating a keto diet, all of which affect blood glucose levels.
- Symptoms of DKA include but are not limited to frequent urination, extreme thirst, stomach ache, headache, fatigue, persistent dry mouth, fruity-scented breath, and nausea.
- DKA can be diagnosed using a blood sugar level test, blood or serum ketone level test, and arterial blood gas test.
- DKA is treated using insulin therapy, IV fluids, and electrolytes.
- DKA can cause complications like poor blood circulation, hypovolemic shock, blood clots, kidney damage or failure, respiratory problems, high blood potassium levels, etc.
- You can prevent DKA by sticking to a diabetic-friendly meal plan, monitoring your blood sugar and ketone levels, taking your insulin injections as prescribed, and managing your diabetes effectively.
- Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading diabetologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate blood sugar monitoring and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Diabetes Management program which provides 360º care. Let’s treat diabetes together.
In diabetic ketoacidosis, the blood sugar levels are usually above 250 mg/dL. However, ketoacidosis can occur even when your blood sugar levels are below 250 mg/dL. This condition is called euglycemic ketoacidosis.
Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious condition that can be fatal if left untreated.
Insulin can be used to treat diabetic ketoacidosis by reversing the processes that cause it. Insulin helps your body use the glucose present in your blood for fuel. This stops your body from using stored fat as an energy source, thus preventing further ketone production.
DKA is a serious but treatable condition if prompt medical assistance is provided. A majority of people recover from diabetic ketoacidosis within a day. However, it may take a little longer in some cases.
With insulin therapy and timely medical intervention, most people recover from diabetic ketoacidosis within a day. However, the longer it takes you to seek treatment, the more likely you are to develop DKA-related complications..
You can test for diabetic ketoacidosis at home by checking your blood sugar levels using a glucometer and by checking your ketone levels using a urine ketone test.