Diabetic ketoacidosis is a buildup of acids in the blood. It is a life-threatening complication resulting from not having enough insulin. It may happen if your child has type 1 diabetes. (It rarely happens with type 2 diabetes.) It is an emergency that must be treated right away. If ketoacidosis is not treated right away, it can cause diabetic coma or death.
Diabetic ketoacidosis happens when your child’s body does not have enough insulin. Without insulin, sugars in the blood cannot move out of the blood and into the body’s cells, and so the cells burn fats instead of sugar for energy. The burning of fats makes byproducts called ketones. The ketones build up to poisonous and dangerous levels in the blood. High blood sugar often happens at the same time as ketoacidosis because sugar also builds up in the blood.
When ketoacidosis happens, it may mean that your child’s diabetes is not in good control, or that your child may be getting an infection. Ketoacidosis may happen even though your child’s blood sugar is usually in good control if there is a change in your child’s life, such as:
Sometimes the diagnosis of diabetes is not made until ketoacidosis occurs. When your child has type 1 diabetes, the pancreas stops making insulin. When this happens, ketones can build up to a high level very fast. It may happen so fast that ketoacidosis symptoms are the first symptoms of diabetes.
If your child has ketoacidosis, symptoms may include:
Symptoms of high blood sugar may include:
The ketoacidosis symptoms leading to a diabetic coma usually happen gradually. In most cases it takes several hours to a couple of days for ketoacidosis to cause a diabetic coma.
Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child. Your child’s provider will pay special attention to:
Your child’s provider will do some tests to check the levels of sugar and other chemicals in your child’s blood. Your child may have other lab tests, a chest X-ray, and an ECG.
Ketoacidosis needs to be treated right away. Treatment is usually given at a hospital.
Ketoacidosis will continue until the insulin and fluids have restored a balance of chemicals in your child’s body. With treatment, your child will usually recover in hours to days.
To help take care of your child and prevent ketoacidosis, follow these guidelines:
Check your child’s blood sugar more often if you think your child is getting sick.
Call your child’s healthcare provider right away if: