A sweet, fruity odor on the breath is one of the most common symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis, explains MedlinePlus. The condition occurs when a lack of insulin makes it impossible for the body to burn carbohydrates for fuel. Instead, the body burns fat for energy, producing ketones in the process.
In addition to fruity-smelling breath, a person with ketoacidosis may experience frequent urination, extreme thirst, confusion and weakness or fatigue, according to Mayo Clinic. Nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain and shortness of breath may also be present. High blood glucose levels and the presence of ketones in the urine are other indicators. Symptoms can develop rapidly, in as little as 24 hours.
The development of diabetic ketoacidosis usually occurs in response to infection or other illness, or as a result of mismanaged insulin therapy, states Mayo Clinic. Emotional or physical trauma, high fever, stress, surgery and heart attacks can also trigger the condition, as can missed doses of medication and illegal drug abuse.
Ketones are acids that build up in the blood when the body utilizes fat for energy, notes Drugs.com. They are toxic in high concentrations, altering blood chemistry and causing dehydration. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life-threatening condition, more common in type 1 diabetics than type 2 diabetics. Plummeting blood pressure, coma and death are among the serious consequences that can occur with untreated ketoacidosis.