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Ketoacidosis (DKA)

Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs in people with diabetes, mostly type 1 diabetic. Type 1 diabetics have reduced insulin production from the pancreas due to an autoimmune attack on the cells that synthesise insulin. Low levels of insulin can result in difficulty regulating blood glucose concentrations, with type I diabetics experiencing extremely high and low levels of blood glucose, both of which are dangerous.

High blood glucose concentrations (hyperglycaemia) as a result of reduced insulin in type 1 diabetics can cause ketones to build up in the body – which is the basis of diabetic ketoacidosis. The severe lack of insulin means that cells in the body cannot take up glucose in the blood and use it as an energy source. As a result, the body begins to break down other body tissue as an alternative energy source. Ketones are a by-product of this process and are toxic if allowed to build-up like in diabetic ketoacidosis.

Signs of DKA include:

  • polyuria
  • polydipsia
  • nausea
  • stomachpain
  • breath that smells fruity (like pear drop sweets or nail varnish)
  • deep or fast breathing
  • lethargy
  • confusion
  • passing out

If any signs of diabetic ketoacidosis are present then blood glucose concentrations need to be checked. To access up to date information on signs, symptoms and treatment guidance click on the links below:

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