What is diabetic ketoacidosis?

By Dr. Kelley Struble

Diabetic ketoacidosis (or DKA) is a serious medical condition that can result from very high levels of ketones in the blood. If it is not recognized and treated right away, then it can lead to a coma or even death. Because it is such a serious condition, a person who develops diabetic ketoacidosis is usually admitted to the hospital for treatment.

This condition occurs when the body’s cells are unable to use glucose for energy, and the body begins to break down fat for energy instead. Ketones are produced when the body breaks down fat, and very high levels of ketones can make the blood extremely acidic. The acidity can potentially cause coma and death.

People with type 1 diabetes are at risk of developing diabetic ketoacidosis if they do not take their insulin, if they do not eat, or if they become sick for other reasons (such as an infection). It is very unusual for people with type 2 diabetes to develop diabetic ketoacidosis.

Ketoacidosis is different from ketosis. Learn more here: ketosis vs. ketoacidosis.

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