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Ketones are a type of chemical produced in the liver when it breaks down fat for energy. When left unchecked, these ketones can begin to accumulate in the body, leading to a life-threatening condition known as Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA).
DKA is particularly dangerous for people with Type 1 Diabetes, as their bodies are unable to produce enough insulin, the hormone responsible for regulating sugar levels in the bloodstream. If ketones continue to build up, it can cause a dangerous and potentially deadly imbalance in the body.
Symptoms of DKA include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and confusion. In order to prevent the build up of ketones, people with Type 1 Diabetes should closely monitor their blood sugar levels, and seek medical attention if they become too high.
It’s also important to note that it’s possible to have Ketoacidosis with a normal blood glucose. This is called euglycemic diabetic ketoacidosis. Testing blood glucose alone is not enough. Since DKA is such a dangerous condition, I bought a Ketone meter in preparation for a sick day. If I’m feeling nauseous, I want to know if it’s DKA, since that’s life threatening!
DKA and LADA Diabetes
Sometimes, DKA happens at the time of diabetes diagnosis. Unlike LADA Diabetes, which has a gradual onset, Type I diabetes has a sudden onset, and if not recognized immediately, the life threatening condition of DKA can happen.
I have LADA Diabetes, and I’ve never had DKA, but I have read many stories of people with Type 1 Diabates falling sick to DKA.
In the early stages of LADA, my pancreas still produced some insulin. However, the amount of insulin that my pancreas makes is declining as my illness progresses, so I feel it’s very important to be able to measure ketones, in addition to blood glucose.
I never want to have DKA, and if I do, I want to be informed so that I can make sure that I get the right treatment. (Do not hesitate going to the emergency room!)
See the Joslin Diabetes Center’s page on Ketone Testing for more information about when to test.
Urine or Blood Ketone Tester?
You can test your ketones by testing urine or by testing blood. I have previously purchased some urine test strips, but thought a blood test would be much easier, and it is! The KetoSens Blood Ketone Meter works very similarly to a glucose meter, so if you know how to test your blood glucose, you’ll find this meter quite intuitive. It’s an FDA approved device and right now the starter kit is selling for about $40, which includes 10 test strips.
Not bad for something that could save your life!
DKA is Very Scary
I’ve read first hand accounts from people who had DKA when first being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. “Almost dying” is often the typical description.
DKA can happen if a person is not getting enough insulin. It can also happen from being sick with other illness or infection. One precaution I’ve read is that if you are vomiting then you may get dehydrated which can lead to DKA.
Testing for ketone levels will give you information as to whether you are in danger of getting DKA.
Definitely talk to your doctor if you have high ketones. Insulin and fluids can help bring down ketone levels. If you are not able to keep fluids down due to vomiting, seek emergency medical treatment. In the hospital, they can give you intravenous fluids and insulin and treat the underlying illness.
More on Ketones, and Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)
Diabetes-Related Ketoacidosis (DKA) – Cleveland Clinic. Very in depth article that explains the symptoms and causes of DKA.
Diabetic Ketoacidosis – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Learn about signs and symptoms and treatment.