Diabetic ketoacidosis is a complication of diabetes. In this condition, insufficient insulin levels in the body result in high blood sugar (glucose) and the buildup of substances called ketones in the blood (ketoacidosis).

Diabetic ketoacidosis is more common among Type I diabetics , but may also occur in Type II diabetics in times of stress, such as during an infection. Patients with new, undiagnosed Type I diabetes frequently present to hospitals with DKA. DKA can also occur in a known diabetic who fails to take prescribed insulin.

DKA was a major cause of death in Type I diabetics before insulin injections were available untreated diabetic ketoacidosis has a high mortality rate.

Diabetic ketoacidosis is usually triggered by a stressful event, such as an illness or another health problem. The condition may also arise as a result of insufficient insulin therapy.

Occasionally, diabetic ketoacidosis is the first indication that a person has diabetes. Fortunately, diabetic ketoacidosis can be successfully treated with prompt medical care.

Learning the warning signs of low insulin levels can help prevent future recurrences of diabetic ketoacidosis or other diabetes complications.

Causes of Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Ketoacidosis can be caused by not taking enough insulin, having a severe infection or other illness, becoming severely dehydrated , or some combination of these factors. Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is life-threatening. It can occur in people who have little or no insulin in their bodies (mostly people with type 1 diabetes ) when their blood sugar levels are high.

  • Alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Physical or emotional trauma.
  • Heart attack or stroke.
  • Insufficient fluid intake, particularly during hot weather.
  • Stress
  • Idiopathic (20-30%)
  • Cerebrovascular accident.
  • Complicated pregnancy.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Early signs include excessive thirst, frequent urination, headache, nausea, and vomiting. The breath may begin to take on a fruity odor, and you may develop rapid deep breathing, sleepiness, and fatigue.

Other symptoms include flushed skin; rapid, deep breathing; confusion; and restlessness.  Without treatment, the condition progresses to diabetic coma.

  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Rapid breathing .
  • Weakness and fatigue.
  • Confusion.
  • Deep, slow breathing.
  • Muscular stiffness or aching.
  • Loss of appetite, abdominal pain.

Treatment for Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Ketoacidosis is treated with insulin. Your blood sugar levels will be monitored frequently and electrolytes and blood gases checked as needed. You will probably be given intravenous (IV) fluids.

Antibiotics are given if the condition is caused by infection. If the condition is mild and caught early, the child may be treated in the emergency room and then released.

However, extremely young patients and those with severe vomiting require specialized treatment and monitoring in a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). If the child is in a coma, he or she will have a nasogastric tube inserted to prevent vomiting and aspiration (inhalation of substances into the lungs).

With blood sugar and chemical levels restored to normal, recovery can occur anywhere within a few hours to days. Once at home, your doctor will work with you to fine-tune your insulin requirements.

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