What is Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)? Causes and Prevention

Diabetic Ketoacidosis is a serious complication where high blood glucose levels lead to a diabetic coma. DKA is a life threatening complication impacting people with diabetes. 

How Does it Develop?

Insulin is the key that allows cells in the body to use glucose for energy, when glucose can’t get into the cells, it starts building up in the blood stream. The body starts breaking down fat for fuel and Ketones are the byproduct of that fat burning process. When too many ketones build up, the blood becomes acidic and it leads to DKA.

Warning Signs of Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)

  • Stomach Ache
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • High Blood Glucose (though not always)
  • Feeling Very Tired
  • Extreme Thirst
  • Frequent Urination
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Confusion
  • Elevated Ketones

Causes of DKA

DKA may develop if insulin doses are missed or rationed. For a person with diabetes, it is vital to take the insulin ratios needed for every meal to avoid complications. In addition, the Flu, common cold, or a viral infection are examples of illnesses that might lead to DKA if not properly addressed. Some other causes include alcohol use, drug use, and medications like steroids.

How to Prevent DKA? 

  • Regularly check blood glucose levels using a glucometer.
  • Do not skip insulin doses for meals and drinks. 
  • Check for ketones if not feeling well or have an illness. 
  • Call your endocrinologist team if your ketones are high, or if you are sick. A sick day plan might be necessary.

Whenever in doubt about your diabetes care, always contact your Endocrinology team for guidance. 

warning signs of Dka

This blog is a personal account and should in no way be taken as medical advice. Please consult your medical team if you have any questions regarding diabetes management and your health.

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