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What Are the Signs and Dangers of Diabetic Ketoacidosis?

Unlike the natural state ketosis, diabetic ketoacidosis is a health emergency. Learn the causes and symptoms of the condition — and how you can prevent or treat it.

Stomach pain, vomiting, and diarrhea are some of the warning signs of diabetic ketoacidosis.
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Thriving with diabetes involves more than eating the right foods and taking your medication as prescribed. It also involves understanding insulin’s role in helping you to maintain good health and avoid diabetes complications.

What’s the Relationship Between Insulin and Diabetes?

Insulin is a hormone that allows your body to use glucose (sugar) properly. When you don’t have enough insulin or develop insulin resistance, sugar can’t reach your body’s cells to be used for immediate energy or stored for later use.

While insulin resistance is a condition in which cells can’t use insulin effectively, insufficient insulin itself prevents cells from receiving insulin. Type 2 diabetes is marked by insulin resistance, while people with type 1 diabetes don’t make enough insulin. (1)

Either way, diabetes can cause destabilized blood sugar levels, which can be risky for your health.

RELATED: What’s the Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?

What Is Ketosis and Is It Bad for Your Health?

If you have type 2 diabetes, you know one of the most efficient ways to get your blood sugar down is by cutting carbs, which the body processes quickly as sugar.

When you drastically cut your carb intake — like with the high-fat, low-carb keto diet, for example — you put your body in a state called ketosis, where you begin relying on burning fat rather than carbs for energy. Ketosis triggers the release of ketones in the body and can lead to quick weight loss. (2) Ketones are acids the liver produces when the body burns fat for energy.

Ketones, for the most part, don’t cause too many problems because the body can usually produce more insulin to slow down the production of this acid. The problem occurs when there isn’t enough insulin present to do that job — which is common in type 1 diabetes and is possible, though rare, among people with type 2 diabetes.

Extremely high levels of ketones can make your blood acidic and lead to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, a dangerous health emergency that requires immediate medical attention, and one that is markedly distinct from ketosis. (3)

RELATED: How Do Ketosis and Diabetic Ketoacidosis Differ From Each Other?

What Are the Warning Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Ketoacidosis?

Diabetic ketoacidosis can develop rapidly, so it’s important to be aware of its symptoms.

The first possible signs of a problem may include excessive thirst and frequent urination. Check your blood sugar levels if you develop these symptoms. If your blood sugar reading is higher than 230 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), you should also check your ketone level with urine strips. (4)

A normal ketone level is under 0.6 millimoles per liter (mmol/liter). A level between 1.6 and 3.0 mmol/L means you are at risk for diabetic ketoacidosis. A level of 3.0 mmol/L or higher is a medical emergency that requires prompt treatment at a hospital. Urine ketone strips can help you learn whether you have a mild, moderate, or high level of ketones. (4)

Taking your insulin as prescribed and drinking water may help you feel better when your ketone level is slightly elevated. After a dose of insulin, your body is once again able to absorb sugar. Meanwhile, drinking water promotes urination and helps flush excess ketones from your body. (5)

If you’re unable to , or if your ketone level reaches an unsafe level, you may experience other symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis, including: (6)

  • Fast, deep breathing
  • Fruity smelling breath
  • Stomach pain
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Blurry vision

See a doctor if you have any of these symptoms, even if you haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes. Sometimes, diabetic ketoacidosis is the first sign that a person has diabetes. (7)

What Factors May Cause Diabetic Ketoacidosis?

An insulin deficiency is the primary cause of diabetic ketoacidosis, and different factors can contribute to this deficiency. If you have type 1 diabetes and you take insulin therapy, missing an insulin dose can prevent sugar from entering your body’s cells. And when your body can’t use sugar for energy, it starts to break down fat for energy. (8)

An illness or infection can also trigger diabetic ketoacidosis. It’s important to monitor your blood sugar level when sick because an illness or infection can cause your body to produce higher levels of adrenaline and cortisol. Too much of these hormones reduce insulin’s effectiveness by preventing the absorption of glucose into your cells. (6)

Stress may also lead to this complication. When under stress, the body goes into fight-or-flight mode and also produces higher amounts of adrenaline and cortisol. (6)

Risk Factors for Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Having type 1 diabetes is a major risk factor for diabetic ketoacidosis because the body has stopped making insulin. (8) Most people with type 2 diabetes are still able to produce insulin, so this condition is less common for them. (6) The risk for diabetic ketoacidosis also increases when you miss or skip your insulin doses. (8)

RELATED: 9 Surprising Complications of Type 2 Diabetes

How Is Diabetic Ketoacidosis Diagnosed?

See a doctor immediately if you have signs of diabetic ketoacidosis. This is a potentially life-threatening condition if left untreated. (6)

Upon arrival at the hospital, a doctor may perform a variety of tests to determine whether you’re suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis or another condition. These include a blood sugar test, a blood test of electrolytes and kidney function, and a blood test to look for acid in the blood. You’ll also have a urinalysis to quickly assess if there are ketones present. (6)

You may also have a chest X-ray or electrocardiogram to check your organ function. Diabetic ketoacidosis can affect breathing and heart rate. (6)

How Is Diabetic Ketoacidosis Treated Exactly?

Fluid replacement and insulin therapy are the primary treatments for diabetic ketoacidosis. While in the hospital, you will likely receive fluids and insulin intravenously. Fluids are necessary because this condition can cause excess urination and raise the risk of dehydration. Fluids also replace lost electrolytes, whereas insulin helps stop the production of ketones and allows glucose to absorb into your body’s cells. (6)

What Complications May Result From Diabetic Ketoacidosis?

High levels of ketones in the bloodstream can be toxic and poison your body. If your blood becomes too acidic, this can lead to death or a diabetic coma. (9)

Treatments for diabetic ketoacidosis can also cause complications. When you receive insulin therapy in the hospital, there’s the risk of receiving too much insulin, which can cause your blood sugar to drop too low. (10)

Symptoms of hypoglycemia may include: (10)

  • Heart palpitations
  • Anxiety
  • Hunger
  • Sweating

In severe cases, hypoglycemia can cause seizures, coma, confusion, loss of consciousness and death.

Other complications from treatment include a low potassium level. Insulin causes a shift of potassium from the bloodstream to the cells. If insulin is given to a person with already low potassium levels in the blood, this can make their potassium levels dangerously low. Low potassium can affect heart, muscle, and nerve function.

RELATED: How to Recognize the Signs of High and Low Blood Sugar

How to Help Prevent Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and reduce the likelihood of diabetic ketacidosis. (6)

Take your diabetes medication as directed. Don’t skip doses.

Frequently check your blood sugar level. This means at least three to four times a day before and after meals. Check your blood sugar more often when you’re ill or have an infection, such as the common cold, the flu, or a urinary tract infection.

Purchase and keep a stock of ketone urine test strips. Check your ketone level whenever your blood sugar rises above 250 mg/dl. Make sure your ketone urine strips aren’t expired, and consider foil-wrapping them to increase their longevity.

Call an ambulance or go to the emergency room if you’re unable to lower your blood sugar and ketone level.

Talk to your doctor if you feel that your insulin dose isn’t working properly. Signs include higher-than-normal blood sugar readings, low blood sugar, headaches, tiredness, and weakness. Your doctor may need to adjust your dose, or there could be an issue with your insulin pump.

The Importance of Knowing When to Take Action

Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it’s important to be aware of the signs of diabetic ketoacidosis so you can take action as needed. Without prompt treatment, diabetic ketoacidosis can lead to death.






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Date: 12.12.2018, 22:02 / Views: 42385