ketoacidosis (DKA) is a life-threatening condition that develops when cells in
the body are unable to get the sugar (glucose) they need for energy, such as
when you have
diabetes and do not take enough insulin. Without
insulin, the body cannot use sugar for energy. When the cells do not receive
sugar, the body begins to break down fat and muscle for energy. When this
ketones, or fatty acids, are produced and enter the
bloodstream, causing the chemical imbalance (metabolic acidosis) called
What causes DKA?
Ketoacidosis can be caused by not
taking enough insulin, having a severe infection or other illness, becoming
dehydrated, or some combination of these things. It
can occur in people who have little or no
insulin in their bodies (mostly people with
type 1 diabetes but it can happen with
type 2 diabetes) when their blood sugar levels are
When you have diabetes, you know you have to pay special attention to your feet.
Diabetic nerve damage, or neuropathy, can lessen your ability to feel pain -- especially in your feet. That's why it's important to inspect your feet daily and choose your shoes wisely. You can get a corn, blister, callus, or foot injury and not be aware of it. Any of those foot problems can develop into open sores, called foot ulcers. Wearing well-fitting, comfortable shoes can prevent potentially serious problems...
When diabetic ketoacidosis is severe, you may have
a hard time breathing, your brain may swell (cerebral edema), and there is a
risk of coma and even death.
How is DKA diagnosed?
Laboratory tests, including
blood and urine tests, are used to confirm a diagnosis of
diabetic ketoacidosis. Urine dipstick tests for
ketones are available for home use. Keep some nearby in case your blood sugar
level becomes high.
How is it treated?
ketoacidosis is severe, it must be treated in the hospital, often in an
intensive care unit. Treatment involves giving insulin and fluids through a
vein and closely watching certain chemicals in the blood (electrolytes). It can take several days for your blood
sugar level to return to a target range.
Who is at risk for DKA?
If you have type 1
diabetes, you are at risk for DKA if you do not take enough insulin, have a
severe infection or other illness, or become severely dehydrated. In some cases
DKA can be the first sign of diabetes.
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Your level is currently
If the level is below 70 and you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.
People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.
Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.
However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.
Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.
One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.
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