Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Be Aware of Diabetic Ketoacidosis or DKA


Diabetes – the word that is associated with high blood sugar. But behind the scenes, there is a lot more to it. Many factors such as the type of diabetes, the amount of insulin available in the blood, oral medications, diet, exercise, insulin resistance, etc. play very important roles in this disease. A disturbance in the balance between the blood glucose levels, insulin availability and insulin resistance leads to diabetes. Diabetes, in many cases, is treated with insulin injections irrespective of the type of diabetes. What is very important to note is that those on insulin therapy need to stick to their schedule and dosage of injections as prescribed by their doctors.

I know several people who are diabetic and on insulin for treatment. When I conducted a small survey on how many of them were aware of DKA, I was surprised to find that not a single person was! So, I decided to speak to some of my eminent doctor friends and pen this article on DKA.

What Is Diabetic Ketoacidosis?

The logic appears to be simple. When the delicate balance between the amount of insulin in the blood and the blood glucose is disturbed, diabetics can end up with a life-threatening complication called Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA).

Cause of DKA

The human body is always in need of energy. Typically, if there is insufficient insulin in the blood, the body cannot manufacture energy from blood glucose. So, the body reacts by burning fat to produce energy. Dangerous by-products of this fat-burning process are ketone bodies. Ketone bodies make the blood abnormally acidic. This condition is called Diabetic Ketoacidosis or DKA. If left undetected or untreated  this condition can result in coma and even death.

It sounds scary and complicated for sure but this condition does not and need not happen to every diabetic. It is more common in type 1 diabetes but can also occur in type 2 diabetes. Irrespective of the type of diabetes, the key lies in the careful self-management of diabetes as per your doctor’s advice. The best person to help one manage diabetes is oneself. No one else can do a better job of it.

Rules to Follow

Simple thumb rules that any diabetic should and must follow are listed below:

  1. Never miss your insulin shots or your oral medications for diabetes.
  2. Never miss meals, especially when you are on insulin.
  3. Monitor your sugar levels on a daily basis at home and keep a record to share with your doctor periodically.
  4. If you are sick, it is all the more important to ensure that you take all your diabetic medications on time. Check your sugar levels and urine ketone levels from time to time and report any unusual changes to your doctor. You can speak to your doctor to understand what levels of blood sugar and urine ketones should alarm you.
  5. Needless to say, eat healthily and exercise regularly.

Symptoms to Look out for

If you observe a combination of the following symptoms, whether diabetic or not, get in touch with your doctor, or even better – rush to the emergency room:

  1. Constant feeling of fatigue
  2. Dry skin or flushed skin
  3. Vomiting more than twice in 4 hours, nausea
  4. Mental confusion, inability to pay attention
  5. Difficulty in breathing
  6. Having breath smell like fruit
  7. Feeling thirsty despite drinking water
  8. Increased urination – both frequency and quantity

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) can be the first symptom that shows up before a person is actually diagnosed with diabetes. So, it is better to be prepared than be caught off-guard!

Taken from the personal blog of Mr. Zakariah Ahmed.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any governmental/other agency. Patient names have been changed to protect their identity.  This article contains facts that have been obtained from reliable sources but may be subject to change with time.  The author will not be responsible in any way for the comments given by the reader


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