Harold Hamm Oklahoma Diabetes Center

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Ketoacidosis  (kē’tō-ās’ĭ-dō’sĭs) is an extremely serious condition that can lead to diabetic coma or even death.  It occurs most often in individuals with type 1 diabetes, and develops from uncontrolled blood sugar (extremely high levels) and high levels of ketones in the urine.  Ketones are acids that build up in the blood and appear in the urine when your body doesn’t have enough insulin. Cells start to burn fat for energy when they don’t get enough glucose, which in turn produces ketones.

Treatment for ketoacidosis usually occurs in the hospital.  You can help prevent ketoacidosis by learning the warning signs, monitoring your blood sugars regularly, and checking your urine for ketones when your blood sugars are high.  (Check with your health care provider to determine the blood sugar range when you should check for ketones.)

What are the Symptoms of Ketoacidosis?

While ketoacidosis generally develops slowly, early symptoms can quickly develop into a life-threatening situation.

The warning signs of DKA are:

  • Deep, rapid breathing
  • Extreme thirst or very dry mouth
  • Flushed skin
  • Fruity breath odor
  • Nausea or vomiting, unable to keep down fluids
    (If vomiting continues for more than 2 hours, please contact your health care provider.)
  • Stomach pain
  • A hard time paying attention, or confusion

How do I Check for Ketones? 

You can check for ketones in your urine with a simple test strip, similar to a blood testing strip.  You should ask your health care provider when and how you should test for ketones.  Many health care providers suggest checking for ketones when your blood sugar reading is greater than 240.

Additionally, when you are sick (flu or cold), check for ketones every 4 to 6 hours.  Check for ketones every 4 to 6 hours when your blood sugar reading is greater than 240 or when you are experiencing symptoms of ketoacidosis.