Diabetic Ketoacidiosis| Ketoacidiosis Symptoms, Causes, Remedial Measures

Diabetic Ketoacidiosis

What Is Diabetic Ketoacidiosis?

Diabetic Ketoacidiosis, or sometimes referred to as DKA, is a condition when a human body develops acidic medium in blood due to excessive accumulation of chemicals called ketones which are formed by utilisation of fats (from the food eaten) instead of glucose by the digestive system. The context of shifting to fats instead of glucose from the digested food occurs when there is non-production/underproduction of a hormone called insulin by certain cells (called beta cells) of pancreas, one of the organs of digestive system.

To understand more clearly, let us follow the course of digestion step by step. First, the food after we eat is converted/split into several intermediary products called carbohydrates, proteins, minerals, fats and vitamins etc., during the process of digestion. One of the intermediary products carbohydrates are further processed into glucose for final utilisation by different tissue cells of the body. Glucose serves as a normal source of energy for cells. In order that glucose reaches tissue cells for supplying energy, an essential hormone called insulin is inevitably required to propagate the process. Insulin is secreted by special cells called beta-cells existing in an organ called pancreas. The beta-cells are mainly responsible for production of insulin in the required quantities. The beta-cells, in a healthy human body, are capable of releasing insulin to the extent required by the system and they can even stop temporarily production of insulin as per the fluctuating demands in the system. In the case of people with diabetes, the immunity system unfortunately attacks beta-cells (in addition to attacking harmful alien bacteria and viruses) and damage the functioning of beta-cells or even sometimes killing them. When there is insufficient production or a total stoppage of insulin, the glucose of the digested food remains unutilized for supply of energy to the tissue cells of various organs of the body. Sometimes, the insulin produced by the beta-cells is not recognized/ accepted by the system and marks the beginning of diabetes. The accumulation of unutilized glucose is the hallmark for onset of diabetic conditions in the body. While the body does not receive energy from its normal source of glucose, it tends to get it from fats which are one of the components of digested food. When fats are broken down for receiving energy, certain chemicals called ketones are released into the system making the system more acidic. Presence of ketones in a healthy individual does not pose any problem but they certainly entail a hazardous situation in a diabetic, which is called Diabetic Ketoacidiosis.

Incidence of Diabetic Ketoacidiosis (DKA):

People suffering from Type I diabetes (also known as Juvenile diabetes) are the main victims of Diabetic Ketoacidiosis. DKA is also occasionally noticed in patients with Type II diabetes.

Diabetic Ketoacidiosis

Warning Signals of Ketoacidiosis:

The most common features are:

  • Dry mouth or increased thirst
  • Frequent need to urinate
  • High blood sugar/glucose levels
  • High levels of ketones in urine
  • The other symptoms include;

Tiresomeness even due to minor physical stress

  • Dry  or  brittle skin
  • Nausea or giddiness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Heightened perspiration
  • Morbid fruity smell in respiration
  • Inability to focus mind on any issue consistently

Causes for Diabetic Ketoacdiosis:

  1. Insufficient Insulin or  --nil-- Insulin
  2. Insufficient food
  3. High ketone levels

Ketone Levels:

The extent of ketones in a sample of urine can be categorized as follows:

  1. Under 0.6 m mol//L – A normal blood ketone value
  2. 0.6 to 1.5 m mol/L – More ketones are produced than normal ; Drink water and a follow-up test should be performed to verify if the count is lowered
  3. 1.6 to 3.0 m mol/L – A high level of ketones indicating the risk of ketoacidiosis. Remedial steps should be taken by consulting physician.

Remedial measures for Diabetic Ketoacidiosis :

Normally the unwanted substances/toxins are unloaded by human body through excretion like urination, sweating etc. The best way to bring down the levels of ketones in blood is to drink plenty of water or drink energy-free sugarless dilute liquids. Excess quantity of water is helpful in flushing out extra ketones through urine by excretion. If the extent of ketones is of alarming proportions, medical treatment should be initiated immediately.