As we learn more and more about the disease diabetes, we become more aware of the sometimes life threatening consequences threatening those that confront this life long and sometimes dangerous condition. One of those consequences is a potentially life threatening diabetes complication called diabetic ketoacidosis or, as it is often abbreviated, DKA.
Diabetes (also known as diabetes mellitus) is a medical condition resulting when the human body does not produce enough, or properly respond to the effects of, a natural substance called insulin. Insulin, an important watchword for diabetics, is a hormone produced in the pancreas. Diabetics have to worry about their insulin intake because their bodies either fail to even produce insulin or fail to respond properly to the insulin that their bodies do produce. Complications from diabetes stem from the fact that insulin problems often allow a substance known as glucose to form in the blood. An excess of glucose can cause various problems with the bodies various functioning systems. Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs when something has gone terribly wrong with someone’s diabetes.
There are two common types of diabetes, diabetes type 1 and diabetes type 2. Dangerous diabetic ketoacidosis occurs mainly in patients with type 1 diabetes, but under some circumstances can affect people with type 2 diabetes, as well. No diabetes patient is immune, so all should be alert to the warning signs of diabetic ketoacidosis.
So what is diabetic ketoacidosis and how can diabetics be on the lookout for it? Diabetic ketoacidosis results when a diabetic patient suffers from an extreme shortage of insulin. Because the body does not find the insulin it needs to function, it switches to burning fatty acids in insulin’s place. This produces acidic ketone bodies, which ravage the body, causing most of the symptoms and complications.
Symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include vomiting, dehydration, difficulty breathing characterized by deep, gasping breathing, and confusion. Untreated diabetic ketoacidosis can even lead to coma if left untreated.
Diabetic ketoacidosis may also occur in people who do not realize that they have diabetes. If you feel you are suffering from the signs and symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis, see your doctor immediately to avoid the negative effects of this potentially fatal condition. To assist in diagnosing diabetic ketoacidosis, doctors will likely run blood and urine tests to detect the condition and distinguish it from other, much more rare, forms of ketoacidosis. Diabetic ketoacidosis is characterized by high blood sugar levels. The signs and symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis usually appear over a 24 hour period, so if you feel the sudden onset of symptoms like these, do not hesitate to get yourself to your family primary care physician or, if after hours or on weekends, the emergency room. It is a terrible idea to wait, because the body continues to produce more and more acidic ketone bodies, getting the body in more and more trouble.
If you find yourself diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis, you will likely find yourself treated with intravenous (IV) fluids to correct the symptoms of dehydration and vomiting, a course of insulin to stop the production of ketone bodies in its tracks, and other treatment for any underlying causes of diabetic ketoacidosis, which may stem from an infection or other diabetic complications.
Be extremely careful if you feel that you may be suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis. This deadly condition was first described back in 1886, but until the 1920’s (when insulin therapy for diabetics was introduced) it was almost universally fatal for sufferers. And do not relax just because doctors have conceived of a working treatment for diabetic ketoacidosis. The condition can still be fatal and currently carries a mortality rate of up to 5%. If you are suffering from diabetes, be sure to follow your strict care regime.