Diabetic Ketoacidosis
Why You Don't Want High Blood Sugar

Diabetic ketoacidosis is one result of having high blood sugar for too long. Here are some things you need to know.

It is seen more in type 1 diabetics, because children and young people develop diabetes quickly.

Before anyone knows they have it, they can slip into diabetic ketoacidosis, and it is very dangerous if it is not treated quickly.

For type 2 diabetics the condition only occurs if your blood sugar stays too high all the time.

That might happen if you get sick, or if you stop taking care of yourself. So you need this information.

Ketosis Is Not the Same Thing

Ketones are blood acids. Sometimes blood sugar is not available to your cells. 

This can be because of a high protein diet or because your pancreas is not making enough insulin.  Your cells can use ketones instead.

As your body starts using fat for fuel, that fat is turned into ketones. Cells do not use ketones as easily as blood sugar, so the ketones start showing up in your urine. This is called ketosis.

But ketosis is not the same as diabetic ketoacidosis. Vigorous exercise or changing to a high protein diet can produce ketosis. It means you are burning fat.

Your urine usually goes back to normal as your body gets used to burning fat for energy. This is what the Atkins diet people tell us will happen.

A urine test kit you buy at a pharmacy can tell you if you have ketosis. But that does not mean you have ketoacidosis.

The presence of ketones in urine is only one of the symptoms, and by itself is not a cause for alarm.

The Symptoms of Ketoacidosis

Untreated hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) forces your kidneys to work overtime. They have to filter all that sugar out. That is the sugar that shows up on urine tests.

It takes large amounts of water to do this. One result is dehydration, which is why excessive thirst is one of the symptoms to watch for.

Another result is polyuria, or going to the bathroom more often than you used to. There is also a fruity smell to the breath from the ketones.

More serious symptoms come later. There is vomiting, abdominal pain, drowsiness, trouble breathing and confusion.

If these accompany  sugar and ketones in the urine, you do not have the flu, and you need swift treatment.

Treating Ketoacidosis

The doctor will put you in the hospital and begin giving you fluids and electrolytes to treat the dehydration.

He will give you insulin to bring your blood sugar down and monitor your blood sugar level with frequent checks to make sure you do not swing too far the other way and become hypoglycemic.

Low blood sugar from treating diabetic ketoacidosis can lead to a diabetic coma. So you stay until they are sure you are stable.

Most of the time you can go home with warnings to check your blood sugar often. Your glucose monitor will go with you everywhere, but it will save your life if you use it.

Avoiding Ketoacidosis

Know the symptoms of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetics can avoid diabetic ketoacidosis by simply monitoring their blood sugar every day.

But there are other things you have to watch for. If you have an illness, like a urinary tract infection or pneumonia, the risk of high blood sugar rises.

If it is difficult to get your insulin dose right, you need to watch for high and low blood sugars until your control is better.

Stress, high fever, surgery, a heart attack or stroke can send your blood sugar out of control.

In high stress situations you need to test your blood sugar levels more often. It is the only way to be sure you don't develop diabetic ketoacidosis.

This is also why you must not fall into depression, because you will neglect your diabetes management.

Avoid exercise mistakes to stay active.

There are people who care about you, friends and family who depend on you to take care of yourself. You are the only one who knows how well you are monitoring your blood sugar.

So check it often. Keep up with your exercise and eat what you know is best for you.

Take care of your diabetic chores and you can avoid diabetic ketoacidosis. 

Learn why diabetic gastroparesis makes blood sugar harder to control.

Return to diabetic symptoms from diabetic ketoacidosis.