Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when your body doesn’t have insulin to allow glucose, or blood sugar, into your cells for energy. Instead, your liver starts to break down fat to use as energy, a process that creates fatty acids called ketones. Your liver usually produces ketones when your body needs energy between meals. But when it makes ketones too quickly, the body can’t keep up, and ketones can build up in the blood, making it acidic.

Although anyone with diabetes can develop DKA, it is most common in people with type 1 diabetes. Sometimes, it can be the first sign of diabetes in someone who hasn’t yet been diagnosed. 

Why UK Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center?

The team at Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center provides expert consultation and ongoing care for patients with diabetes and any diabetes-related complications and conditions, including diabetic ketoacidosis.

Our center is unique in that we offer care and treatment of pediatric and adult patients across their entire lifespan. Our multidisciplinary health care team includes physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, certified diabetes educators, pharmacists and social workers. We have an education center that provides first-class diabetes education in individual, small group and large settings.

Our outpatient location at UK HealthCare – Turfland  provides a convenient, single location where patients can easily access many of their related health care services. UK HealthCare – Turfland, which offers abundant free parking, is home to many other expert clinical health care providers, including those from primary care, urgent care, pharmacy, laboratory, radiology/MRI, ophthalmology and more. 

Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center offers A1C testing, which provides rapid results while you wait. We will help you learn more about advancements in diabetes technology programs.

UK HealthCare’s state-of-the-art electronic health record uses the MyChart patient portal for communication between provider and patient. 

How do providers work together to best serve patients? 

  • We coordinate a specific treatment plan tailored to each patient using a team of multidisciplinary care providers that includes physicians, nurse practitioners/physician assistants, certified diabetes educators, pharmacists and social workers.
  • A comprehensive medical record network coordinates care among your healthcare team, as well as with local and regional health care facilities. The MyChart portal tool promotes quick and effective communication with our patients. 
  • Having our pediatric and adult teams housed in the same clinic offers a very smooth transition of care as pediatric patients reach adulthood.

DKA may cause a variety of signs and symptoms in people with diabetes, including:

  • Breath that smells fruity
  • Dry mouth and skin
  • Feeling very tired
  • Flushed face
  • Having to urinate a lot more than usual
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and stiffness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Stomach pain 
  • Thirst
  • Taking fast, deep breaths

DKA happens when you have very high blood sugar and low insulin levels. It can affect people with diabetes who miss meals or don’t drink as they normally would, which makes it harder for the body to manage blood sugar levels. Another common cause is not getting enough insulin, which could happen from missing shots, having a clogged insulin pump or getting the wrong dose.

Other causes of DKA include:

  • Certain medications, such as some diuretics and corticosteroids
  • Infection
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Physical injury, such as from a fall or other accident
  • Stroke or heart attack

There are steps you can take to help prevent DKA. These include:

  • Check your blood sugar frequently, especially if you don’t feel well.
  • Keep your blood sugar levels in the target range.
  • Take your medications as prescribed, even when you’re not feeling well, Or call your provider if you are unsure or cannot take your medication.
  • Talk to your doctor about your glucose levels when you’re sick.

DKA can lead to serious health problems if left untreated. These include:

  • Buildup of fluid on the brain, a condition called cerebral edema
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Kidney failure
  • Death

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