All You Need To Know: Diabetic Ketoacidosis

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Do you know about diabetic ketoacidosis?

The potentially life threatening condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) affects patients with diabetes. It happens when the body begins to break down fat at an excessively rapid rate. The fat is converted by the liver into substance called ketones, which makes the blood acidic.

According to patient profiles from a 2015 study, the incidence rate of DKA for Malaysia’s multi-ethnic diabetes community was estimated to be 5.47% (54.7 per 1000 diabetic admissions).

But what actually happens to the person who has this condition?

When the body breaks down fat after a lengthy period without eating, the liver typically produces ketones. The heart and muscles often utilise these ketones. By turning the blood acidic, ketones that are created too quickly and accumulate in the body can be harmful and this condition is called ketoacidosis.

Does diabetic ketoacidosis affect type 1 or 2 diabetes?

In those who have not yet been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, DKA can occasionally be the initial symptom. It can also happen to someone who has already received a type 1 diabetes diagnosis. 

DKA in patients with type 1 diabetes can be brought on by certain conditions for example, trauma, illness, injury, missed insulin doses, surgery stress, or any of a number of other factors.

Interestingly, DKA can also occur in people with type 2 diabetes, but it is uncommon and not as intense as type 1. It is typically brought on by extended periods of unmanaged sugar levels, missed medication dosages, or a serious illness or infection.

What are the symptoms?

Unfortunately, DKA typically develops gradually and we can detect the early signs of a person when they are always thirsty and having a lot more urination than usual. 

If it was not treated properly, it may lead to severe conditions such as rapid and deep breathing, dry mouth and skin, facial flushing, breath that smells of fruit, headache, muscle pain or stiffness, being so exhausted, vomiting and nauseous and also stomach ache. 

Does diabetic ketoacidosis cause death?

Jokes aside, yes, diabetic ketoacidosis can become a life-threatening situation for you which leads to diabetic coma or even death. It is important to regularly monitor your blood sugar level and get advice from the doctor to avoid this from happening to you.

What should you to do?

Testing for ketones level is the only way to detect it. You can use an over-the-counter ketone test kit to check your urine whenever you are ill or your blood sugar is 240 mg/dL or higher, or use a device to monitor your blood every 4 to 6 hours for ketones. 

If you have any of the signs of DKA, you should also get a ketones test and if your ketones are high or moderate, do consult with your doctor for further diagnosis and treatment.


Initially, diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious condition for people who have type 1 diabetes. However, people with type 2 diabetes need to be careful too as this condition might affect their health to the worst if it was not taken care of. Do consult with the doctor before you proceed with any treatment.


  1. American Diabetes Association (ADA). (n.d.). Diabetes & DKA (Ketoacidosis). American Diabetes Association.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2021, March 25). Diabetic Ketoacidosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  3. MedlinePlus. (n.d.). Diabetic ketoacidosis. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  4. Nipro. (2022, August 23). Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) – Why should it matter to me?
Dr Awam

Dr Awam

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All credits goes to Awam Clinic health promotion team.

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