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
Symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include:
Flushed, hot, dry skin.
fruity breath odor.
Restlessness, drowsiness, or difficulty waking
up. Young children may lack interest in their normal
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.
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator