Symptoms, Causes, Complications, And Treatment Of Diabetic Ketoacidosis

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man checking blood sugar

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a condition resulting from diabetes and requires private blood testing London for its diagnosis. This condition is usually life-threatening and severe. It occurs when body cells experience a shortage of glucose due to an insufficient supply of this vital component in the body. In diabetic ketoacidosis, there is sufficient glucose in the bloodstream, but the insulin level is low and unable to convert sugar in the body into a readily absorbable form.

Insufficient glucose in the cells leads to the breakdown of fats and muscle to produce an alternative source of energy for the body cells. The metabolism of fats and muscles leads to the production of ketones (fatty acids), and this leads to an electrolyte imbalance, causing ketoacidosis, also called metabolic acidosis.

The body cannot metabolise the excess glucose in the bloodstream, which should have been used up as energy in the cells, so the kidney filters the excess glucose into the urine for excretion.

Symptoms and signs of diabetic ketoacidosis

The following are common symptoms and signs of diabetic ketoacidosis.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Frequent urination
  • Abdominal pain
  • Dry mouth and skin
  • Rapid and deep breathing (also called Kussmaul breathing)
  • Decreased consciousness levels (usually ranging from confusion and drowsiness to unconsciousness)
  • Fruity smelling breath

Causes of diabetic ketoacidosis

Generally, diabetic ketoacidosis results from having insufficient insulin to transport glucose (sugar) into the body cells to serve as a form of energy. Other stressors, in addition to diabetes, such as an infection can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis.

In some cases, diabetic ketoacidosis is one of the first indicators of diabetes for people who do not know they have the condition.

Risk factors for diabetic ketoacidosis

Type I diabetic patients who do not take their insulin or have another disease or contract an infection are at a high risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis.

Ketoacidosis is common in people with type I diabetes but rarely occurs in those with type II diabetes.

Complications resulting from diabetic ketoacidosis

Most people experiencing ketoacidosis already have several underlying health conditions asides from diabetes. Diabetic ketoacidosis may lead to other severe complications and in some cases, death.

Common complications of diabetic ketoacidosis include kidney failure and cardiac arrest, and treatment for the condition leads to other complications like the following.

  • Low potassium (hypokalaemia)
  • Cerebral oedema (swelling of the brain)
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia)

Diagnosis of diabetic ketoacidosis

Urine and blood tests are required for the diagnosis of diabetic ketoacidosis. You may also need a physical exam and examination of your medical history in the diagnosis of diabetic ketoacidosis.

The doctor would have to check for signs of the condition and your medical history to conclude the diagnosis. The presence of high levels of blood glucose, ketones in the urine or blood and low blood pH level indicate diabetic ketoacidosis.

Your doctor may order you to get other blood tests to determine the state of your overall health. For example, you may need an electrolyte test to check the levels of your electrolytes, particularly potassium.

A physical exam is also necessary because and elevated pulse rate and blood pressure are signs that indicate an issue in the body and observing for signs of confusion and dehydration would help in the diagnosis.

If the doctor thinks that you have an infection, you may need to get additional tests like blood cultures, and chest x-rays.

Guidelines for the treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis

Treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis usually requires multiple approaches. The treatment aims to normalise the pH of the blood, normalise the level of electrolytes and slowly lower the blood sugar. The doctor achieves this by administering insulin electrolyte fluids like normal saline.

The condition usually leads to an imbalance in electrolytes, and this increases the need for the close monitoring of the abnormally high electrolytes like potassium and replacement of the deficient ones. A complication that usually arises from the treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis is the fluctuations of potassium levels in the body.

The doctor administers reverse dehydration IV fluids to replace lost fluids. The rehydration fluid and the speed of infusion are vital in managing diabetic ketoacidosis.

The doctor would also treat the underlying condition leading to diabetic ketoacidoses like a heart attack, infections, and other body stressors.

The doctor may also include supportive care in addition to the regular medications the patient takes.

Prevention of diabetic ketoacidosis

You can prevent diabetic ketoacidosis by doing the following.

  • Taking all the medication prescribed by your health care provider if you are diabetic
  • Identifying the symptoms of high blood glucose levels
  • Taking all your insulin doses as this is key to preventing diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Testing your blood glucose levels often
  • Testing your urine for elevated sugar and ketone levels, especially when you feel sick
  • Making an appointment with a medical expert if you have elevated ketone or sugar levels or whenever you feel sick

If you have diabetes and feel sick, you can get a walk-in blood test London to check if you have diabetic ketoacidosis. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms above for diabetic ketoacidosis, visit Blood London or contact us now on 020 71830244 to book an appointment for your blood and urine test.

Frequently asked questions.

Is it possible to die from having diabetic ketoacidosis?

The condition has a high death (mortality) rate and increased risk of developing other conditions. Detecting diabetic ketoacidosis on time helps in better management of the condition to prevent further harm. The underlying cause of the disease and the presence of other underlying conditions contribute to how the condition affects you.

Diabetic ketoacidosis treatment is done by which type of doctor?

If you have diabetic ketoacidosis, you need to visit a hospital for treatment. You would first receive treatment from an emergency medical specialist, then an internist, intensivist, or family medicine specialist will attend to you. An endocrinologist who is a physician specialised in handling issues in the endocrine system may also get involved in your treatment and medical care.

Facts about diabetic ketoacidosis

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis is a severe and life-threatening condition which mostly affects type I diabetic patients and in rare cases, type II diabetic patients. It occurs from the production of a high amount of ketones due to insufficient insulin in the body.
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis is due to insufficient production of insulin in the body
  • The symptoms of the condition include dehydration, abdominal pain, confusion, vomiting, nausea, and frequent urination.
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis risk factors include having type I diabetes, exposure to stressors that need higher doses of insulin (like an infection), and missing doses of insulin often.
  • Checking for increased blood sugar and ketone levels, and increased blood acidity helps in the diagnosis of diabetic ketoacidosis.
  • Diabetic ketoacidosis treatment includes electrolyte therapy, administering fluids, and insulin.
  • Prevention of diabetic ketoacidosis is by monitoring the blood glucose and ketone levels and taking prescribed doses of insulin.
  • A person’s prognosis depends on the presence of other medical conditions and the severity of diabetic ketoacidosis.