Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)

What is Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)?

Constantly high blood glucose levels and a severe lack of insulin can lead to Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). It is likely to occur during an initial diagnosis period, when a newly diagnosed diabetic isn’t clear or used to handling their condition. DKA can also happen during illness, a growth spurt and puberty.

Hyperosmolar Hyperglycaemic State (HHS) and DKA may sound similar but there are key differences. HHS doesn’t usually lead to the presence of ketones in the urine, as occurs with DKA. Therefore, it was previously referred to as HONK (hyperglycaemic hyperosmolar non-ketotic coma).

Ketones develop when blood glucose levels are high. Because people with Type 2 diabetes may still be producing some insulin, ketones may not be created.

Unlike HHS, DKA can develop over 24 hours rather than over the course of weeks. It can also develop quicker in young children. Hospital treatment is essential for amending life threatening acidosis. IV fluids and insulin will be needed as well as close monitoring of blood glucose levels.

Symptoms of DKA include:

  • High blood glucose
  • Ketones in the blood and/or urine
  • Frequent urination
  • Thirst
  • Tiredness
  • Blurry vision
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Breathing becomes much slower and deeper
  • The breath will smell like pears which indicates ketones.
  • Unconsciousness

If left untreated, DKA can be fatal so getting hospital treatment is important and could be life-saving. However, DKA can be avoided through good diabetes management.

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