Diabetic ketoacidosis: Symptoms and Causes

The symptoms and causes of diabetic ketoacidosis

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a serious condition of diabetes that occurs when your body produces high levels of blood acids called ketones. It can lead to diabetic coma (passing out for a long time) or even death.

Diabetic ketoacidosis: the causes

This condition develops when the body can’t produce enough insulin. As we know, glucose is the major source of energy for our muscles and other tissues. Insulin helps the glucose enter in the cells. Without enough insulin, our body begins to break down fat as fuel. This process produces a buildup of acids in the bloodstream called ketones. High levels of ketones can poison the body. When levels get too high, you can develop DKA. DKA may happen to anyone with diabetes, though it is rare in people with type 2. 

As a result, we have to learn the warning signs of diabetic ketoacidosis and know when to seek emergency care.


The signs may develop within 24 hours. The following symptoms may be the first indication of having diabetes:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fruity-scented breath
  • Confusion

However, more-specific signs can be detected through home blood and urine testing kits as well. They are :

What causes diabetic ketoacidosis?

Here are three basic reasons for moderate or large amounts of ketones:

  • Not enough insulin
    If you have an inadequate insulin therapy or if you miss your insulin treatment, it can leave you with too little insulin in your system. Hence, it can trigger an episode of diabetic ketoacidosis.
  • Not enough food
    High levels may also occur when you miss a meal.
  • Insulin reaction (low blood glucose)
    If testing shows high ketone levels in the morning, you may have had an insulin reaction while asleep.

Last but not least, ketoacidosis is dangerous and serious. Furthermore, it can be fatal as well. If you have any of the above symptoms, contact your doctor IMMEDIATELY, or go to the nearest emergency room of your local hospital.

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