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High Ketones

When you do not get a sufficient amount of insulin over a period of time, the cells in your muscles will become so starved for energy that your body will take emergency steps and break down fat.  As your body changes the fat into energy, it will produce blood acids known as ketones.  A buildup of ketones in the blood is called ketoacidosis.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a very dangerous condition that can be fatal if left untreated.  DKA is more common in people with type 1 diabetes.  It can be caused by skipping some of your shots or by not raising your insulin dose to adjust  for a rise in your blood glucose level.

Extreme stress or illness, which can occur in people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes also may cause DKA.  If you develop a infection, your body will produce certain hormones, such as adrenaline, to help fight off the problem.  These hormones also work against insulin.  Sometimes the two causes occur together.  You get sick or overstressed, and you forget to take your insulin.

In people who are unaware they have diabetes, DKA can be the first sign of the disease.  Early symptoms of DKA can be confused with flu, which may delay appropriate medical attention.

Signs and Symptoms of High Ketones

When the level of ketones in your blood rises, you may experience:

  • High Blood Glucose
  • Excessive Thirst
  • Dry Mouth
  • Frequent Urination

As the ketone levels gets higher:

  • Fatigue
  • Blurry Vision
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Loss Of Appetite
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Weight Loss
  • Shallow Breathing
  • Weakness
  • Sweet, Fruity Odor On Your Breath
  • Drowsiness

What You Should Do About High Ketones

You should check your ketone level if you experience any of the signs or symptoms or whenever your blood glucose is persistently over 250 mg/dL.  It is also a good idea to also check your ketone level if you are feeling sick or especially stressed.

Buy a ketones test kit at the drugstore and do the test at home.  Most kits use chemically treated strips that you dip into your urine.  When you have high amounts of ketones in your blood, excess ketones are excreted in your urine.

The test strips in the kit change colors according to the level of ketones in your urine.  If the color on the test strip shows a moderate or high ketone level, call your doctor right away for advice on how much insulin to take, and drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.  If you have a high ketone level and you can’t reach your doctor, go to a hospital emergency room.

DKA requires emergency medical treatment, which involves replenishing lost fluids through intravenous lines.  Insulin, which may be combined with glucose, is injected in an IV line so that your body will stop making ketones.  Slowly, your blood glucose level is brought  back to normal.

Adjusting your blood glucose too quickly can produce swelling in your brain.  But this complication is more common in children, especially those with newly diagnosed diabetes. 

Left untreated, DKA can lead to a coma and possibly death.  High ketones is serious…Go see your doctor.

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