Diabetic Ketoacidosis

(Diabetic Coma; DKA)

Definition

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) occurs when a person’s blood sugar (glucose) is too high because there is not enough insulin. Instead, the body starts to burn fat for energy. Fat is broken down into acids, causing acid levels to build up in the blood. These acids appear in urine and blood as ketones. DKA is a serious condition that can lead to coma or death if not treated.

Causes

This situation is most often caused by uncontrolled type 1 diabetes and sometimes type 2 diabetes.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of DKA:

Symptoms

DKA may cause:
  • High blood glucose levels (greater than 250 mg per dL)
  • Dry mouth and skin
  • Thirst
  • Frequent urination
Call for emergency medical services right away if you have:
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Severe stomach pain
  • Trouble breathing
  • Fruity breath odor
  • Rapid pulse

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A urine and/or blood test will be done to look for the presence of ketones.

Treatment

DKA is treated with insulin and fluids. This may require treatment in an intensive care unit.Insulin may be given by IV or injections. The insulin will immediately start reversing the cycle causing DKA. The insulin will let the body use glucose for fuel again. Fat will not be needed for fuel, so new ketones will not be made. The body will then be able to get rid of the extra ketones.Fluids and electrolytes will also be given through IV. Fluids will help flush the ketones from your body. Electrolytes will help your blood restore balance.
IV Being Placed in Hand
IV insertion
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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