What is diabetic ketoacidosis?

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a complication of diabetes that occurs when compounds called ketones build up in the bloodstream. Ketones are produced when the body breaks down fats instead of sugars, which happens when the body does not produce enough insulin to process sugar properly.

Diabetes Symptoms Spotlight

Ketoacidosis generally develops in people with type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces too little or no insulin. It can also happen, although uncommonly, in those with type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition in which your body is either resistant to insulin or your pancreas does not produce enough insulin.

Symptoms worsen over time as the body attempts to use fat instead of sugar for energy. Blood sugar levels generally increase dramatically during the development of diabetic ketoacidosis, as the liver attempts to compensate for the lack of sugar-derived energy.

Diabetic ketoacidosis can lead to rapid breathing, flushing, fruity-smelling breath, nausea, vomiting, pain, fatigue, headache, and muscle stiffness. In severe cases, ketoacidosis can lead to a slowing of mental activity that can progress to a coma. The consequences of ketoacidosis can be severe, even life threatening, but modern treatments are usually very effective at preventing serious complications if treatment is obtained early.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms of ketoacidosis, such as decreased consciousness, difficulty breathing, mental stupor, or unexplained fruity-smelling breath.

Seek prompt medical care for any symptoms of diabetes or high blood glucose levels, as early treatment is critical for preventing life-threatening complications.


What are the symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis?

Symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include symptoms related to both the digestive system and nervous system, both of which are affected by the buildup of toxic ketones.... Read more about diabetic ketoacidosissymptoms


What causes diabetic ketoacidosis?

Diabetic ketoacidosis is caused by the buildup of ketones in the bloodstream. Ketones are compounds that come from the breakdown of fats instead of sugars. Normally, your body uses blood sugar for energy. In order to process blood sugar, however, your body requires insulin. When you have diabetes, you do not have enough insulin to process sugar effectively. In severe cases, your body will try to break down fats instead, and ketones can begin circulating through your blood.... Read more about diabetic ketoacidosiscauses


How is diabetic ketoacidosis treated?

Diabetic ketoacidosis treatment attempts to restore insulin, blood glucose, fluid, and electrolyte levels. Treatment may also focus on determining and correcting the trigger, which could be trauma or infection. Most treatment for ketoacidosis will require hospitalization. Treatments for diabetic ketoacidosis include:... Read more about diabetic ketoacidosistreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

Your Guide to Diabetes