Diabetic ketoacidosis is a complication of diabetes that occurs when the body cannot use sugar (glucose) as a fuel source because the body has no insulin or not enough insulin, and fat is used instead. Byproducts of fat breakdown, called ketones, build up in the body.
Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
People with type 1 diabetes lack enough insulin, a hormone the body uses to process glucose (blood sugar) for energy. When glucose is not available, body fat is broken down instead.
As fats are broken down, acids called ketones build up in the blood and urine. In high levels, ketones are poisonous. This condition is known as ketoacidosis
Blood glucose levels rise (usually higher than 300 mg/dL) because the liver produces glucose to try to combat the problem. However the cells cannot pull in that glucose without insulin.
Diabetic ketoacidosis may lead to a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes, because it is often the first symptom that causes a person to see a doctor. It can also be the result of increased insulin needs in someone already diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Infection, trauma, heart attack, or surgery can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis in such cases. Missing doses of insulin can also lead to ketoacidosis in people with diabetes.
People with type 2 diabetes can develop ketoacidosis, but it is rare. It is usually triggered by a severe illness. People of Hispanic and African-American ethnicity seem to be more likely to have ketoacidosis as a complication of type 2 diabetes.
Pictures & Images
Food and insulin release
Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas in response to increased glucose levels in the blood.
Review Date : 5/20/2009
Reviewed By : Reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. Also reviewed by Deborah Wexler, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Endocrinologist, Massachusetts General Hospital.
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