DKA Diabetic KetoAcidosis - patient education video
What is diabetic ketoacidosis? — Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious problem that happens to people with diabetes when chemicals called “ketones” build up in their blood. It can happen to people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but it is more likely to affect people with type 1. That’s because people with type 1 make little or no insulin, a hormone that allows the body to use sugar as a source of energy.
Normally, the body breaks down sugar as a source of energy. But in people with diabetes who do not make any insulin, the body is unable to use sugar. When the body can’t use sugar, it burns fat as a source of energy. But burning fat can cause the body to make too many ketones. When ketones build up in the blood, they can be toxic.
What causes diabetic ketoacidosis? — People can get diabetic ketoacidosis for a few reasons:
●They are not getting treated for diabetes (possibly because they don’t know they have it) and so their body is breaking down fat.
●They have a major illness or health problem, such a heart attack or infection.
●They take certain medicines or illegal drugs.
●They don’t take their insulin as directed.
●Their insulin pump does not work correctly.
What are the symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis? — The symptoms can include:
●Feeling very thirsty and drinking a lot
●Urinating a lot, including at night
●Nausea or vomiting
●Feeling tired or having trouble thinking clearly
●Having breath that smells sweet or fruity
Should I see a doctor or nurse? — See your doctor or nurse right away if you have the symptoms listed above. Also, see your doctor or nurse if your blood sugar levels keep being higher than they should be.
Is there a test for diabetic ketoacidosis? — Yes. If the doctor or nurse thinks you have diabetic ketoacidosis, he or she will order several blood tests, including tests to check your blood sugar and ketone levels. He or she will also check your urine for ketones. These tests can show whether you have diabetic ketoacidosis.
Because diabetic ketoacidosis can cause problems with the heart, you might also need an electrocardiogram. That is a test to measure the electrical activity in the heart.
How is diabetic ketoacidosis treated? — Treatment is done at the hospital and can include:
●Fluids and electrolytes – When dealing with diabetic ketoacidosis, the body loses a lot of fluids. It also loses electrolytes, chemicals such as sodium and potassium, that keep cells working normally. As part of treatment for the condition, doctors must replace lost fluids and electrolytes.
●Insulin – When the body has enough insulin, it can use sugar as fuel and it does not need to break down fat.
Can diabetic ketoacidosis be prevented? — You can reduce your chances of getting diabetic ketoacidosis by:
●Taking your insulin exactly as directed
●Measuring your blood sugar often to make sure it is not too high or too low