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Diabetic ketoacidosis

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diabetic ketoacidosisDiabetes is like a bad friend, once you have it, it brings other bad friends with it. The number of complications that arise due to diabetes is simply mind-boggling. It doesn’t leave any organ untouched! One such complications of diabetes is ketoacidosis – a condition that affects almost all organs in the body. So, in order to keep you abreast of the condition, here are answers to the most common questions about ketoacidosis answered by experts at LifeSpan.

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Ketoacidosis is a complication that people with diabetes suffer from, and is caused due to the lack of insulin in the body. In ketoacidosis, there is a rapid build-up of toxic substances known as ‘ketones’ which makes the blood extremely acidic.

Although it is most often observed in people who have type 1 diabetes, ketoacidosis may affect those with type 2 diabetes as well. It is a serious condition, which if left untreated, can lead to a diabetic coma or even death.

Risk Factors

Diabetics in general are prone to ketoacidosis due to the very nature of the disease. But, in the case of  type 2 diabetics, a patient’s pancreas is unable to produce sufficient insulin which in turn deprives their cells of glucose. Since glucose is extremely essential for the cells to perform their normal functions, the patient’s body looks for alternative sources of energy.

In an attempt to fulfil this deficit, the patient’s body uses fat from fat cells – which is broken down – to obtain energy. Denatured fat cells lead to the formation of ketones which are then released into the patient’s blood stream.

Over a period of time, these ketones start to accumulate in the patient’s blood, causing it to turn more acidic. Because of this, many important enzymes that control the body’s metabolic processes aren’t able to perform optimally, leading to an imbalance in the patient’s blood sugar and electrolyte levels. (Read: Diabetes – Symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment and complications)


The common symptoms of ketoacidosis include –

  1. Excessive thirst and urination

  2. Dehydration

  3. Nausea

  4. Vomiting

  5. Bad breath

  6. Fatigue

  7. Rapid weight loss


Ideally, a diabetic should not wait for symptoms to show up, and must be screened for risk factors regularly. Timely assessment of one’s health parameters can help prevent the onset of ketoacidosis.

One could opt for a specialised diagnostic test such as the R.I.S.C test (relationship between insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease – a test which helps measure various risk factors associated with diabetes) to determine their susceptibility to various ailments that commonly afflict people with diabetes; especially ketoacidosis.


The treatment for ketoacidosis depends on how advanced a patient’s symptoms are. Once the severity of the disease is determined, the condition can be treated by following a combination of frequent insulin injections coupled with rehydrating fluids to restore the mineral balance in the patient’s body.


If left untreated, ketoacidosis can lead to complications such as cerebral oedema (swelling of the brain), kidney failure, headache, seizures and swelling in arms and legs. Moreover, it can lead to extreme toxicity, a diabetic coma or even death.


Finally, remember that prevention is better than cure. Ketoacidosis can be prevented easily by the proper and timely management of diabetes. Read about 10 ways to control diabetes.


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