Diabetic Ketoacidosis: What is it?

To describe the condition ‘Diabetic Ketoacidosis’, perhaps it is important to understand what is ketoacidosis first. Ketoacidosis refers to high levels of ketone bodies in the blood. Our body mainly derives energy from breaking down sugar in the cells. However, in conditions when cells cannot get enough sugar, they start breaking down fats to produce energy. As a result, certain substances called ketone bodies (acetoacetate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, acetone) are produced alongside energy. Build up of these ketone bodies in the blood increases its acidity and may eventually lead to cell damage and serious complications.


To learn more about ketones visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ketone

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious complication of insulin deficiency seen mostly in type 1 diabetes and sometimes in type 2 diabetes (especially in people who need insulin therapy). One of the mechanisms by which insulin clears up sugar from the blood is by increasing the uptake of glucose by the cells. In the presence of insulin deficiency, the sugar in the blood is not taken up by the cells, and the levels may build up resulting in hyperglycemia or high blood sugar. Nevertheless, cells need energy to carry on their processes. So they resort to breaking down fats to get energy, thereby producing ketones.

Diabetic ketoacidosis can have damaging effects on the body and may even be fatal. Therefore it is essential to be able to tell if someone is experiencing it. The signs and symptoms associated with diabetic ketoacidosis are as follows:

1. Presence of high blood glucose levels in most cases but not always 2. Frequent urination 3. Dehydration and increased thirst 4. Dry or flushed skin 5. Confusion or impaired unconsciousness 6. Fruity smell in breath 7. Difficulty breathing 8. Nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain 9. General body discomfort or feeling tired

If someone you know has some or all of the symptoms mentioned above, they are likely experiencing diabetic ketoacidosis. However, some people may not have a high blood sugar level. In that case, doing a home urine ketone test may be helpful. Ketone test strips are easily available and should be kept at home if you are on insulin therapy.


If you suspect that you may be experiencing acidosis, doing a ketone-strip test is always a good idea. This would ensure that appropriate measures are taken in time to avoid any serious complications. You may also come to our pharmacy to have a ketone test done.

For more information on diabetes, or if you are interested in buying the ketone-test strips, speak to our pharmacists at Guildview Pharmacy and we would be happy to help you take care of yourself.


Here is a video that might help you understand how ketone test strips work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=htt9lowNEd0



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