Diabetic ketoacidosis symptoms should not be ignored; this is a very serious condition which may result in coma or even death. If you have diabetes, or know someone who does, it is important that you learn the warning signs of this emergency condition. This way you will know what to do and when to seek emergency care.

As mentioned above, diabetic ketoacidosis develops when the body has too little insulin. This is because insulin plays a major role in helping your muscles use sugar. If there is no insulin and sugar cannot enter your cells, the body begins to break down fat as an alternate fuel. However, this process produces toxic acids called ketones. These enter your bloodstream, and if they build up too much it leads to a very dangerous condition called diabetic ketoacidosis.

Diabetic ketoacidosis symptoms develop quickly; sometimes within 24 hours, states MayoClinic.com. You may notice the following symptoms:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fruity-scented breath
  • Confusion


Many of the symptoms listed above mimic those of the flu; therefore it is hard to tell if treatment is needed. However, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that a type-1 diabetic call their health care provider immediately if any diabetic ketoacidosis symptoms manifest. If you cannot contact your provider, go to the nearest emergency room.


Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Ketoacidosis


If you notice any diabetic ketoacidosis symptoms, there are urine tests available that you can purchase over the counter. Most experts advise checking your ketone levels anytime your blood sugar is over 240 mg/dl. If your blood sugar is higher than this, or if you are sick, check for ketones ever 4 to 6 hours. According to the ADA, you should also test every 4 to 6 hours if you any symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis.

According to MayoClinic.com, if the following diabetes ketoacidosis symptoms or signs occur you should see a doctor immediately:

  • You are unable to tolerate any food or liquid
  • You are vomiting
  • Your blood sugar is high and it doesn’t respond to home treatment
  • Your urine ketone level is high


If you show any signs of diabetic ketoacidosis, you may be admitted into the hospital or you may be treated in the emergency room. You will be treated with fluid and electrolyte replacement treatments as well as insulin therapy with be performed until your body chemistry returns to normal. Afterwards your doctor will help you create a diabetes treatment plan.