DKA and Diabetes


When I first heard of diabetic ketoacidosis, DKA, I did not have a clue what it meant. Ketoacidosis is such an intimidating word. As a huge fan of language, I instantly started breaking it down. The root word, acid, is important to look at. It hints that this disorder has something to do with pH balance. That is when I looked up the definition to learn more about the condition.

According to WebMD, “Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a life-threatening condition that develops when cells in the body are unable to get the sugar (glucose) they need for energy because there is not enough insulin” (WebMD, 2017).

If your body is not able to develop enough energy, it will start to burn fat in order to keep functioning. This produces something called ketones. According to the American Diabetes Association, ADA, “ketones are chemicals that the body creates when it breaks down fat to use for energy” (ADA, 2015).

If ketones build up inside of someone’s blood stream because there is not enough insulin to create energy, it will cause the blood to turn acidic. This is a red light that your diabetes is starting to get out of hand. This is a warning sign that you need to see your doctor immediately.

DKA can develop inside of anyone who has diabetes, but is rare in people who have type 2 diabetes (ADA, 2015). Treatment for DKA normally has to take place in the hospital.

There are several symptoms that occur that help you determine if you might have DKA. If any of the following occur, you should see medical help right away.

Some early symptoms according to the ADA are: “thirst or a very dry mouth, frequent urination, high blood glucose (blood sugar) levels, [and] high levels of ketones in the urine” (ADA, 2015).

Some later symptoms are as follows: constantly feeling tired or sleepy, dry skin, nausea, vomiting, stomach aches and sharp pains, troubles breathing, a fruity odor in your breath, and confusion (ADA, 2015).

If any of these conditions start occurring, especially if they do frequently, see medical help right away. DKA can put you in a diabetic coma that sometimes leads to death.

There are also three main causes for DKA. The ADA states that not enough insulin, not enough food, and low blood sugar levels are main causes for DKA (ADA, 2015).

A lot of disorders with diabetes are related to high blood sugar levels. However, it is important to maintain your blood glucose levels inside of the target range suggested by your doctor to prevent low blood sugar as well. Lowering the risk of DKA will help you to live a happier, healthier lifestyle.

Getting 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week will help you maintain your blood sugar. Cutting out trans fats and eating a low sodium diet should assist as well.

Overall, it is important to have great communication with your doctor. Check your urine for ketones frequently to detect any risk of DKA. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, seek medical help right away.


American Diabetes Association. (2015). DKA (ketoacidosis) & ketones. American Diabetes Association. Retrieved from

WebMD Editors. (2017). Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA):topic overview. WebMD. Retrieved from