Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a life-threatening blood chemical (electrolyte) imbalance that develops in a person with diabetes when the cells do not get the sugar (glucose) they need for energy. As a result, the body breaks down fat instead of glucose and produces and releases substances called ketones into the bloodstream.
People with type 1 diabetes and some people with type 2 diabetes are at risk for DKA if they do not take enough insulin, have a severe infection or other illness, or become severely dehydrated.
Symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include:
- Flushed, hot, dry skin.
- A strong, fruity breath odour.
- Restlessness, drowsiness, or difficulty waking up. Young children may lack interest in their normal activities.
- Rapid, deep breathing.
- Loss of appetite, abdominal pain, and vomiting.
Severe diabetic ketoacidosis can cause difficulty breathing, brain swelling (cerebral edema), coma, or death.
Treatment involves giving insulin and fluids through a vein and closely monitoring and replacing electrolytes.
Current as of: July 28, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Donald Sproule MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator