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Understanding Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Last updated 4 years ago

After you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important to work closely with the care team at your community hospital to understand how to manage your condition. When diabetes is poorly managed, you’ll be at an increased risk of many different health complications, including diabetic ketoacidosis. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life-threatening condition that requires a prompt visit to your community hospital’s emergency room.

Understanding the Causes

Diabetic ketoacidosis is caused by a high blood glucose level. The body begins to use fat for energy instead of glucose because there isn’t enough insulin. Acids are a byproduct of the breakdown of fats. These acids build up in the bloodstream and are detectable as ketones in the urine. Diabetes care teams at community hospitals most often see diabetic ketoacidosis in individuals with type 1 diabetes, although it can occur in those with type 2 diabetes that is poorly controlled. It may also occur when an individual is becoming ill.

Identifying the Symptoms

The early symptoms of this condition include frequent urination, excessive thirst, and dry mouth. High blood glucose and high ketone levels are detectable. Later, other symptoms develop, such as fatigue, flushed skin, difficulty breathing, and a fruity odor on the breath. Individuals may suffer from confusion, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

Checking for Ketones

The diabetic care team at your local hospital can give you instructions for checking for ketones in your urine. This is done using a test strip. You should check for ketones if your blood glucose is over 240 mg/dL or if you become ill.

Going to the Hospital

If you have high levels of ketones, have someone drive you to the hospital. The physician can administer intravenous fluids and insulin to reverse diabetic ketoacidosis. Severe cases of this condition may require treatment at the intensive care unit (ICU).

If you think you could have diabetic ketoacidosis, don’t delay seeking medical help at a community hospital. Memorial Hospital of Tampa provides swift emergency response to individuals suffering from urgent medical situations and we offer an on-site intensive care unit (ICU). Families in South Tampa can learn more about diabetes management by calling our hospital’s Consult-A-Nurse referral line at (813) 873-6400.


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Disclaimer: The materials provided are intended for informational purposes only. You should contact your doctor for medical advice. Use of and access to this website or other materials do not create a physician-patient relationship. The opinions expressed through this website are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the hospital, medical staff, or any individual physician or other healthcare professional.
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