Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious, life-threatening complication of lack of 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 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 means that your child’s diabetes is not in good control, or your child may be getting sick. Ketoacidosis may occur even with proper treatment for diabetes when 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. As a result, blood sugar may become very high, very fast. It may happen so fast that ketoacidosis symptoms are the first symptoms of diabetes.
If your child has ketoacidosis, he or she may have these symptoms:
Symptoms of high blood sugar 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.
A healthcare provider will review your child’s symptoms, ask about medical history, and examine your child. Your child provider will pay special attention to:
Tests to check the levels of sugar and other chemicals in your child’s blood and urine diagnose diabetic ketoacidosis. If needed, your child may also have other lab tests, a chest X-ray, or ECG.
Ketoacidosis needs to be treated right away. Your child needs to be treated at a hospital.
To help take care of your child and prevent ketoacidosis, follow these guidelines:
Call IMMEDIATELY if:
Call during office hours if: