Diabetic Ketoacidosis:
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What Are Ketones And What Do They Have To Do With Diabetes?

The presence of high levels of Ketones in the bloodstream is a common complication of Diabetes, which if left untreated can lead to Ketoacidosis, which is a combination of Ketosis and Acidosis; Ketosis is the accumulation of substances called Ketone Bodies in the blood and Acidosis is an increased acidity of the blood; Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) is a dangerous and potentially life threatening condition.



People with Type 1 Diabetes, or people with advanced Type 2 Diabetes, do not produce, enough, or any Insulin at all and Insulin is a pancreas produced hormone that is required to metabolise the blood sugar and when the body has insufficient Insulin, it cannot get glucose from the blood into the body's cells to use as energy.

Glucose is the primary fuel that the body uses for energy and a lack of energy makes the body think that you do not have enough glucose present in the blood, so the body starts to burn body fat in order to create more glucose; however, this does not create more Insulin and so the body still cannot get glucose from the blood into the body's cells to use as energy; this creates a vicious circle, in which the body burns even more fat.

Unfortunately, when the body burns too much fat, it also creates Ketones, which is an acid that is released into the bloodstream and if there is insufficient Insulin present to help fuel the body’s cells, the Keytones start to build up; therefore, high levels of Ketones are more common in people with Type 1 Diabetes, or people with advanced Type 2 Diabetes.

The Symptoms Of Ketoacidosis:

Symptoms of Ketoacidosis include Slow, Deep Breathing; Ketones give the breath a sickly, fruity odour like nail varnish remover or pear drops; Confusion; Frequent Urination 'Polyuria'; Poor Appetite and eventually Loss of Consciousness; a good indication is if you can taste nail varnish or pear drops when licking your lips.

How Do I Test For Ketones?

Ketone testing can be carried out at home; there are several products that test for Ketones in the urine and there are blood glucose meters which can also test for Ketones as well as test the blood glucose levels; although, you will probably only need to use ketone testing if you are ill or have sustained high blood sugar levels; all the test will do is tell whether, or not, you have Ketones and if you have high levels of Ketones for more than a few days, you will need to seek medical advice; Ketone testing may be advisable for pregnant diabetics and women who have developed Type 4 Diabetes 'Gestational Diabetes'.

The above process of burning more fat, to create a supposed lack of glucose in your body, also leads to high blood sugar levels known as Hyperglycemia; if the blood sugar levels go up and Insulin, or other medication isn't used, the levels will continue to rise and your going to get very thirsty and need to go to the toilet a lot; under extreme conditions you may even vomit and require medical attention; high blood sugar levels do not necessarily mean that you will also have a build up of Ketones; however, the higher the blood sugar levels and the longer it is sustained, the more likely it is that you will have a build up of Ketones.


Ketones are not a good thing, you do not want them to build up in your body; when Ketone levels become too high, the risk of Ketoacidosis is raised and this emergency condition can lead to Coma, Brain Damage and even Death in serious cases; the opposite of Ketoacidosis is Alkalosis; there is a delicate balance between these two conditions.

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