Older man tests his blood sugar levels with a monitor

12 Signs of Diabetic Ketoacidosis You Need to Know

If you have diabetes, you’ve probably heard about diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA, from your doctor. Unlike ketosis, which is a harmless state of fat-burning resulting from a low-carb diet, diabetic ketoacidosis is a medical emergency. Learn more about this condition and the steps you can take to avoid it.

What Is Diabetic Ketoacidosis?  

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a condition that primarily affects people with type 1 diabetes, but it can also occur in people with type 2 diabetes. DKA is the result of high blood sugar and low insulin levels. Insulin breaks down glucose in the blood and converts it into energy for cells. When the level of insulin is so low that it can’t remove these sugars from the blood, the body finds an alternate fuel source: stored fat, resulting in the creation of ketones.

When too many ketones and too much glucose store up in your blood, it can become acidic and change how your internal organs function. If left untreated, DKA can result in coma or death. Know the symptoms so you know when to seek emergency medical attention.

What Are the Symptoms of Diabetic Ketoacidosis?

DKA can have a variety of symptoms, including:

  1. Fruit-scented breath

  2. Fatigue

  3. Nausea and/or vomiting

  4. Dry skin

  5. High blood sugar

  6. Intense thirst

  7. Dry mouth

  8. Frequent urination

  9. Flushed face

  10. Confusion

  11. Rapid breathing

  12. Abdominal pain

Consider purchasing ketone test strips from your local drug store. If you notice any of the symptoms of DKA or have a blood sugar reading higher than 240 mg/dL, you can use these to determine the level of ketones in your urine. If the level is high (a chart on the packaging will advise on safe levels), head to your nearest emergency room.

How Can I Prevent Diabetic Ketoacidosis?

Proper management of diabetes is one of the best ways to avoid DKA. Taking your medication as directed by your doctor, injecting the prescribed amount of insulin at the same time every day, eating a balanced diet, and exercising frequently can prevent your blood sugar from rising to unsafe levels. DKA can also result from infections, so visiting your doctor at the first sign of illness can lower your risk of developing this condition.

Don’t hesitate to call 911 and seek emergency medical care if you suspect you’re experiencing DKA. Every minute matters! Know where to go during an emergency by finding your nearest CHI St. Luke’s Health emergency room location today.

Sources:
Healthline | What You Should Know About Diabetic Ketoacidosis
Healthline | Ketosis vs. Ketoacidosis: What You Should Know
Healthline | Checking Ketone Levels
Medline Plus | Diabetic ketoacidosis