Article Categories Health-and-Fitness Diabetes

Understanding Ketones

By: Gregg Milliken

When the body runs out of insulin, it is forced to burn fat for fuel.  This produces ketones, and when they build up, the result can be a dangerous condition called diabetic ketoacidosis.

Diabetic ketoacidosis can lead to severe illness or even death.  If you have type 1 diabetes, you need to be aware of the warning signs.  Warning signs of ketoacidosis include:  blood glucose level of above 300 mg/dl, frequent urination, insatiable thirst, rapid breathing, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, fatigue, a fruity smell to your breath, muscle aches or stiffness, and confusion.  If you have any of these symptoms, it is important that you call your health care provider or diabetic educator immediately.

It is of the utmost importance that if you have type 1 diabetes and a blood glucose level of 240 mg/dl that you test for ketones.  Ketones are detected by testing the urine with a simple test kit that you can use at home.  Home test kits are available at your pharmacy, so be sure and ask your doctor about them.  The test kits consist of simple test strips that are placed in the urine stream or in a cup of collected urine.  The test strip changes color to show the level of present ketones.  Be sure and follow the package directions precisely.  If the results of the test indicate that there are ketones present, do not hesitate to call your health care provider or diabetic educator immediately.

Although diabetic ketoacidosis is scary, it can be treated.  Every type 1 diabetic should have a home test kit available to them at all times.  Remember:  "safe" is always better than "sorry."

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