Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life-threatening complication of diabetes that occurs when the body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones. Diabetic ketoacidosis can occur when the body is unable to produce enough insulin and begins to break down fat and muscle for energy. When this happens, a buildup of toxic acids called ketones enter into the bloodstream and cause a chemical imbalance called diabetic ketoacidosis. In most cases, diabetic ketoacidosis occurs in individuals with type 1 diabetes, although it can also be a complication of type 2 diabetes.



Possible signs and symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis can include:

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Urinating frequently
  • Sickness and vomiting
  • Tiredness
  • Dry skin
  • Weakened vision
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite and stomach pain
  • Strong breath smell
  • Confusion


More-specific signs of diabetic ketoacidosis which can be detected through home blood and urine testing kits include:

  • High blood sugar level (hyperglycemia)
  • High ketone levels in your urine



Sugar is a main source of energy for the cells that make up the muscles and other tissues. Normally, sugar enters the cells with the help of insulin. Lack of insulin in the body can lead to improper use of sugar within the body. This leads to a release of hormones that break down fat in order to have an alternative source of fuel and in turn, the process leads to the production of toxic acids called ketones. Overconsumption of ketones that accumulate in the blood eventually spill over into the urine.  

Causes for diabetic ketoacidosis are usually triggered by:

  • A medical condition or infection (Pneumonia and urinary tract infections)
  • Lack of insulin intake
  • Fever
  • Physical and emotional stress
  • Heart attack
  • Surgery
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Drug misuse


Risk factors 

Factors associated with the risk of diabetic ketoacidosis include the following:

  • Have type 1 diabetes
  • Being younger than age 19
  • Lack of insulin intake



Complications that can arise from diabetic ketoacidosis can include the following:

  • Drop in blood sugar level (hypoglycemia)
  • Drop in potassium level (hypokalemia)
  • Swelling in the brain (cerebral edema)
  • Loss consciousness
  • Death



Diabetic ketoacidosis is avoidable. A few recommendations for preventing a diabetic ketoacidosis may include:

  • Managing diabetes by taking oral diabetes medication or insulin as directed
  • Monitoring blood sugar level
  • Adjusting insulin dosage as needed
  • Checking ketone levels with a urine ketones test kit
  • Acting quickly when blood sugar level is high and there is an excess of ketones in the urine
  • Seeking medical attention when necessary