Glucose (sugar) is the main source of fuel for your muscles and other tissues. Normally, insulin helps glucose to enter your cells, which then use the glucose for energy. If you do not have enough insulin in your body, your cells cannot use the glucose in your blood. Hormones are then released that allow fat to be broken down for use as an alternate fuel source. As the fat breaks down, acids called ketones build up in the blood. Once the level of ketones in the blood gets high enough, they spill over into the urine. High levels of ketones are poisonous.
Other triggers may include:
Warning signs of DKA may include:
Other symptoms may appear:
Specific signs of DKA are:
Blood ketone levels can be tested with a meter similar to a glucose meter. A urine test strip can monitor urine ketones.
If you are considering buying a testing tool, it is highly recommended that you get the meter that tests both blood ketones and blood glucose. Although the strips are more expensive then the urine ketone strips, this method is more accurate. Urine ketone tests can sometimes show that ketones are not present (a negative test), even if you have DKA.
It can be tricky to know if you have DKA, as the signs are often the same as those of the flu. Check your blood glucose level often if you feel ill or stressed, or have recently been ill or injured.
Contact your doctor immediately if:
Go to an emergency room if:
Remember, DKA is a medical emergency. It can cause coma or death if not treated.
You can prevent DKA and other complications of diabetes in a number of ways.
Commit to managing your diabetes. Make regular exercise and healthy eating a part of your routine. Take all medications as directed.
Monitor your blood glucose levels. You may need to check and record your blood glucose levels several times a day, and more often if you are ill or stressed. Careful monitoring is the only way to be sure that your blood glucose level is within your target range.
Adjust your insulin dosage if necessary. If you take insulin, your doctor or diabetes educator can teach you how to adjust the dose according to your blood glucose levels, your level of activity, what you eat, whether you are ill, and other factors that affect blood glucose.
Check your ketone level. If you are ill, stressed, or have a blood glucose reading of 14 mmol/L or higher, test your blood or urine for ketones. If your ketone level is moderate or severe, contact your doctor or seek emergency care.
Be prepared to act quickly. If you suspect you have DKA, you need immediate medical attention.
DKA can be scary, but if you take care of yourself and follow certain precautions, you can keep your risk of developing it to a minimum.