What Causes Ketones in Urine?

Causes of ketones in urine include going for 18 hours or longer without eating, poorly controlled diabetes, being on a high-fat or very low-carbohydrate diet, and having eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa, states WebMD. Unlike fasting, which causes a mild increase in ketone levels, the levels of ketones in individuals with poorly controlled diabetes are much higher.

The human body gets energy from carbohydrates in the diet, notes WebMD. If the diet contains insufficient carbohydrates, the body breaks down stored fat, producing ketones. This condition normally occurs from insufficient insulin levels, causing ketones to accumulate in the body, a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, reports Healthline. A person can test ketones by using home blood or urine tests, according to WebMD.

Conditions such as pneumonia and urinary tract infections can cause increased levels of hormones, such as cortisol or adrenaline, triggering diabetic ketoacidosis, says Mayo Clinic. Inadequate insulin therapy or missed insulin treatments can also trigger this condition, due to little insulin in the body. Other triggers include emotional trauma, drug use, heart attack and medications such as certain diuretics and corticosteroids. Excess ketones spill over into the urine.

A person may develop symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis within 24 hours, and these symptoms may be an indication of having diabetes, explains Mayo Clinic. They include abdominal pain, excessive thirst, vomiting and frequent urinating.