Diabetic ketoacidosis (patient information)

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Diabetic ketoacidosis


What are the symptoms?

What are the causes?

Who is at highest risk?

When to seek urgent medical care?


Treatment options

Where to find medical care for Diabetic ketoacidosis ?

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Possible complication


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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-In-Chief: Jinhui Wu, M.D.; Assistant Editor-In-Chief:Laura Linnemeier


Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious complication of diabetes. It may occur in both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes, but is most common in people with type 1 diabetes. Some triggers, such as infection, trauma, heart attack, surgery or missing doses of insulin may lead to this condition. Usual signs and symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include shortness of breath, fruity breath, nausea and vomiting, excessive thirst, even confusion, stupor that may progress to coma. Tests of blood sugar level, urine ketone level and arterial blood gas may be helpful for the diagnosis. The goal of treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis is to correct the high glucose level by giving more insulin and to replace fluid loss through excessive urination and vomiting. Prognosis of diabetic ketoacidosis varies, depending on patient's age, treatment and complications.

What are the symptoms of Diabetic ketoacidosis?

The following signs and symptoms are indicative of diabetic ketoacidosis:

Diseases with similar symptoms

What causes Diabetic ketoacidosis?

Sugar which is the main source of energy for cells, needs insulin to enter inside the cells. When the patient lacks enough insulin, sugar will not be able to enter inside the cell. This situation prompts the release of certain hormones that break down fat. The breakdown of fat produces ketone bodies. This process may be triggered in the presence of any infection, illness or drugs.

Who is at highest risk?

When to seek urgent medical care?

Call your health care provider if symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis develop. If you experience either of the following symptoms, seeking urgent medical care as soon as possible:


Treatment options

The goal of treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis is to correct the high blood glucose level by giving more insulin and to replace fluids lost through excessive urination and vomiting.

  • Fluid and electrolyte replacement: The patients will receive fluids and electrolytes to replace those that they lost through excessive urination and vomiting. This can help dilute the excess sugar and help keep a normal internal environment to make the body work well.
  • Insulin therapy: The purpose of insulin therapy is to control blood sugar levels. Usually, the patients with diabetic ketoacidosis will receive insulin therapy through a vein.
  • Treatment for the trigger of diabetic ketoacidosis: When the patient returns to normal, the doctor will consider what may have triggered the episode of diabetic ketoacidosis and make treatment protocol for the disease.

Medications to avoid

Patients diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis should avoid using the following medications:

Where to find medical care for Diabetic ketoacidosis?

Directions to Hospitals Treating diabetic ketoacidosis

What to expect (Outook/Prognosis)?

Prognosis of diabetic ketoacidosis depends on:

Possible complication

Diabetic Ketoacidosis is a fatal condition if not treated promptly.


  • Making a healthy lifestyle: Make healthy eating and physical activity part of your daily routine. Take oral diabetes medications or insulin under your doctor's direction.
  • Learning to self-monitor your blood sugar level: You may need to learn to check and record your blood sugar level at least several times a day. Careful monitoring is the only way to make sure that your blood sugar level remains within your target range.
  • Warning signs and symptoms of ketoacidosis: When people in the conditions of stress such as infections, stroke, pregnancy or surgery, measuring urine ketones may give more information than glucose measurements alone. If you suspect that you have diabetic ketoacidosis, seek emergency care as soon as possible.


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