What is DKA?


Quick Answer

According to the Mayo Clinic, DKA, or diabetic ketoacidosis, is a serious and sometimes fatal complication of diabetes that occurs when a patient's body has high levels of ketones in the blood. Ketones are blood acids that accumulate when fat is broken down for fuel.

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Full Answer

According to the Mayo Clinic, diabetic ketoacidosis develops when a person's body isn't able to produce the correct amount of insulin to combat high blood glucose levels. Insulin is a hormone that transfers glucose from the blood into the cells. DKA is usually triggered by other illness or by problems with insulin treatments.

The cells use glucose for energy. Without enough insulin, the body begins to break down fat cells for energy because they are unable to get enough glucose. This breakdown of fat results in the formation of ketones. As ketones accumulate in the bloodstream, they sometimes lead to diabetic ketoacidosis.

DKA is a serious condition. Consult a doctor as soon as possible if urine ketones are high. If blood sugar remains consistently above 300 milligrams per deciliter, seek emergency care.

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