Monday, June 27, 2016

Living With Type 1 Diabetes: DKA

The body begins to burn fat for energy when cells do not get sufficient amount of glucose. Ketones are the chemicals that the body creates when it breaks down fat for energy. When ketones build up in the blood, the blood becomes more acidic. This leads to diabetic ketoacidosis, DKA, which can lead to diabetic coma or even death.1

Early Warning Signs of DKA:
  • Thirst / dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • High blood glucose levels
  • High levels of ketones in urine
Other Symptoms of DKA:
  • Constantly feeling tired
  • Dry/flushed skin
  • Nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fruit like odor on breath
  • Hard time focusing/confusion

DKA usually develops slowly, but sometimes can develop in just a few hours. High blood sugars are usually a sign of ketones. If a diabetic experiences any of these symptoms, it is important for them to contact their diabetic doctor IMMEDIATELY. The doctor will inform them what do next. If the diabetic is unable to reach their doctor, they must  go to the nearest emergency room.1

Checking for Ketones
Taking a simple urine test can detect ketones. A diabetic doctor should prescribe you strips to check for ketones and advise you when to test for ketones. Most doctors advise diabetics to start checking for ketones when blood glucose level is above 240.1

Treating DKA
Treating DKA usually results in a trip to the hospital. At the hospital, the diabetic will be monitored and receive fluids through an IV.2 Diabetics will get their blood glucose level checked every 30 minutes to an hour, depending on what the doctor prefers, until their blood glucose levels have come down to a normal range (80-120). Diabetics usually respond to treatment after about 24 hours, but sometimes it can take longer. If DKA is not treated, it can lead to death.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis is extremely severe and life threatening. This is is why it is important to type 1 diabetics to know and be aware of the warning signs of DKA. Having type 1 diabetes for 19 years, I have gone into DKA several times. Each time I experienced any of the warning signs, I had someone take me to the emergency room right away. Several times I had other complications like infections or illnesses that caused my blood glucose levels to stay high. I would get an IV of saline and insulin and within the next 24 hours my blood glucose levels were back to normal. This is an extremely terrifying moment. Even though I have been through it before, it is something I hope i never have to go through again. This leads to my next blog about finding a cure for type 1 diabetes, ways you can help, and why it is so important to find this cure!


1 DKA (Ketoacidosis) & Ketones. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2016, from

2 Wisse, B., & Zieve, D. (Eds.). (n.d.). Diabetic ketoacidosis: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. Retrieved June 12, 2016, from

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