Diabetes is often referred to as a metabolic disorder because the body can’t deal with sugars that are digested from the food that we eat. These types of foods are predominantly carbohydrates that are broken down in the intestine and then absorbed into the blood. In a normal functioning metabolism insulin would be secreted that would reduce the level of glucose and create energy that the cells can use to function. For diabetics this does not happen because the insulin is not effective or can’t be created. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a complication of this condition that is commonly associated with type 1 diabetes. It is probably the most serious consequence of diabetes as it often results in the person going into a coma and even dieing. This article will discuss some diabetic ketoacidosis signs and why the condition occurs.
Type 1 diabetes differs from type 2 in that the body thinks the cells that produce insulin are harmful to the body and destroys them. This means that the person with type 1 diabetes has to replace the insulin using an insulin pump or injection. This is often when ketoacidosis can occur. If the person forgets to take insulin, undergoing an operation or have no available insulin then a number of things happen to the body.
The glucose levels will rise in the blood. However there is no insulin, so this glucose can’t be used as energy for the cells. The brain tells the body that it is starving. This triggers the back up system, the metabolizing of stored protein and fat cells. The body starts to create energy out of fatty tissues and muscles.
During this process the increased fatty acids go to the liver where they are converted to ketones bodies. Ketone bodies are an alternative to glucose and produce energy for some of the bodies major organs, the brain in particular. Amino acids from muscle cells go to the liver to be converted to glucose. This glucose is absorbed into the bloodstream leading to increase blood sugar levels or hyperglycemia. However it still can’t be converted to energy, so more fat and muscle tissues are used. This leads to more ketones being created. Ketone bodies are acidic and as too much of this substance goes into the bloodstream the blood begins to become acidic.
The normal ph level of human blood is around 7.5. With too much ketone bodies in the blood it may drop to well below this level. This has catastrophic effects on many of the tissues and organs of the body. It ultimately leads to coma and death.
Some common signs of early Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a loss of appetite, vomiting, pain in the stomach, fast or panicked breathing and disorientation. A classic symptom is a ‘fruity’ breath because substances in the blood like acetone. The hyperglycemia will also cause polyuria or frequent urination. This will also make the sufferer feel dehydrated.
In the early stages of DKA putting insulin into the body will solve the problem but if it is at an advanced stage it is a good idea to call a doctor, medical professional or ambulance.