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Diabetic ketoacidosis: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About diabetic ketoacidosis

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a potentially life-threatening complication in which there is production of acidic ketone bodies due to the deficiency of insulin.

Diabetic ketoacidosis: Incidence, age and sex

Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs predominantly in patients with type 1 diabetes. However it may occur in type 2 diabetes under certain circumstances.

Signs and symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis: Diagnosis

The symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis usually evolve rapidly over one or two days and consist of nausea, vomiting, severe abdominal pain, excessive urination and excessive thirst. In severe cases, there may be confusion, lethargy, coma, increased heart rate, low blood pressure and laboured breathing. There is often a fruity odour of breath in such affected individuals.

Diabetic ketoacidosis is diagnosed by finding high blood sugars and ketones in blood or urine. Also there is reduced blood ph or acidosis.

Causes and prevention of diabetic ketoacidosis

There is generally a precipitating factor for diabetic ketoacidosis. There may be an infection, heart attack or stroke. Missing the insulin dose may also result in diabetic ketoacidosis. Furthermore inadequate insulin administration either due to defective insulin pen device is also an important cause.

Episodes of diabetic ketoacidosis can be prevented by proper education which includes adherence to “sick day guidelines”. These guidelines tell patients how to treat themselves when unwell and how to adjust insulin dose.

Diabetic ketoacidosis: Complications

If untreated, diabetic ketoacidosis may rapidly lead to coma, respiratory failure and even death.

Diabetic ketoacidosis: Treatment

Patients with diabetic ketoacidosis require immediate hospitalization and intensive management. Large amount of intravenous fluids are needed to correct dehydration. Intravenous insulin infusion is necessary to eliminate ketone production. Frequent monitoring and appropriate correction of electrolyte levels in blood (mainly potassium) is needed. If there is a respiratory failure, patient may require artificial ventilation.

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