What is Diabetic Ketoacidosis

What is Diabetic Ketoacidosis?

What is Diabetic Ketoacidosis?

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a complication that can occur in individuals with diabetes, a metabolic disorder marked by elevated blood sugar levels. Diabetes arises from either insufficient insulin production or the body’s resistance to insulin, a hormone that aids cells in utilizing glucose for energy and regulates blood glucose levels. Without enough insulin, glucose cannot enter cells, causing blood sugar levels to rise (hyperglycemia).

DKA typically results from a lack of insulin or inadequate insulin function, leading to the body’s inability to utilize glucose effectively. In response, the liver produces more glucose, exacerbating the already elevated blood sugar levels. As cells resort to using fat for energy, ketones, a byproduct of fat breakdown, accumulate in the blood, resulting in a condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis. Elevated ketone levels can be toxic to cells.

Common symptoms of DKA include deep and rapid breathing, dry skin and mouth, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, a flushed face, and breath with a fruity smell. While DKA predominantly affects individuals with type 1 diabetes, it can also occur in those with type 2 diabetes, albeit rarely and usually in cases of severe illness.

Diagnosis of DKA involves blood and urine tests to measure ketone and sugar levels. Ketone testing may be recommended in individuals with type 1 diabetes who experience high blood sugar levels, illness, nausea, vomiting, or during pregnancy.

Treatment for DKA primarily focuses on correcting blood sugar levels with insulin therapy and replenishing fluids lost through urination and vomiting. Management typically occurs in a hospital setting and includes insulin replacement, fluid and electrolyte replacement to address dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, and addressing the underlying cause of DKA, such as infection or injury.