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Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)

What is it?

When you have high blood glucose levels and you are ill, your body may start to produce ketones.

Ketones are poisonous and make your blood very acidic, hence the term ketoosis.

DKA is serious and always needs treating in hospital. You need extra insulin and a drip to bring your Type 1 diabetes back under control.

Avoiding DKA

The best way to avoid DKA is to try to keep your blood glucose to your target levels. If it goes higher, you should check your blood or urine for ketones. Your doctor or nurse will tell you what blood glucose level at which you should check ketones.

You can find out if you have ketones by testing your blood or urine. Your doctor or nurse will tell you which is best for you, and will show you how to do it.

If you discover ketones in your urine, tell your parents and contact your doctor or nurse straight away. Don’'t do any exercise (though, feeling ill, you probably won't feel like it anyway), drink sugar-free fluids and keep taking your insulin.

Recognising the signs of ketoacidosis

Ketoacidosis usually takes a few hours to develop, but if you're on a pump it can come on more quickly. As well as having high blood glucose levels and ketones in your blood or urine, you will also have some of these symptoms.

  • Thirst
  • Going to the toilet a lot
  • Tiredness
  • Blood glucose levels higher than 15mmol/l
  • Ketones in your urine.
  • Nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting
  • Moderate to large amounts of ketones in the urine
  • Deep, rapid breathing
  • Breath smelling like pear drops
  • Drowsiness
  • Eventual unconsciousness.

If you don't treat DKA, you will get more and more drowsy and you could eventually lose consciousness.

If your blood glucose hasn't gone too high and you don't have too many ketones in your blood or urine, you can bring things back under control by drinking plenty of sugar free fluids and increasing your insulin dose. Do talk to your doctor or nurse about how to do this.

If you don't know what to do – or you've started to vomit, get some help from a doctor or nurse straight away.

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