Diabetes symptoms: The signs in your breathing of diabetic ketoacidosis – when to get help

Type 2 diabetes can be a 'devastating diagnosis' says expert

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The NHS explains that diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a serious problem that can happen in people with diabetes if their body starts to run out of insulin. It says: “When this happens, harmful substances called ketones build up in the body, which can be life-threatening if it’s not found and treated quickly.” The health body says DKA is an emergency and needs to be treated in hospital immediately.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) says that in some cases, a person may reach the point of DKA before a type 1 diagnosis is made.

It explains: “DKA occurs when blood glucose is dangerously high and the body can’t get nutrients into the cells because of the absence of insulin.

“The body then breaks down muscle and fat for energy, causing an accumulation of ketones in the blood and urine”.

The ADA says symptoms of DKA include a fruity odour on the breath, heavy, taxed breathing and vomiting.

It warns: “If left untreated, DKA can result in stupor, unconsciousness, and even death.”

The NHS says other symptoms of DKA include:

  • Needing to pee more than usual
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Being sick
  • Tummy pain
  • Breath that smells like pear drop sweets or nail varnish
  • Feeling very tired or sleepy
  • Confusion
  • Passing out.

The health body explains: “DKA mainly affects people with type 1 diabetes, but can sometimes affect people with type 2 diabetes.”

If you have diabetes, it’s important to be aware of the risk and know what to do if you get DKA, it adds.

The NHS says you should go to your nearest A&E immediately if you think you have DKA, especially if you have a high level of ketones in your blood or urine.

Diabetes UK says you should check your blood sugar straight away if you have any of the signs of DKA.

It explains: “If your blood sugar is high, check for ketones. You can check your blood or your urine for ketones.

“A blood test will show your ketone levels in real time but a urine test will show what they were a few hours ago.”

It adds: “If you have type 1 diabetes you should get either a blood ketone monitor or urine testing strips for free from the NHS.

“If you have high ketone levels in your blood and suspect DKA, you should get medical help straight away.”

The organisation says you can help avoid DKA by monitoring your blood sugar levels regularly and altering your insulin dose in response to your blood sugar levels and what you eat.

It adds: “Sometimes, there isn’t always an obvious trigger for DKA which can be worrying and confusing. But if you suspect you or your child has DKA it is important to get medical help straight away.”

The NHS says type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. In the UK, around 90 percent of all adults with diabetes have type 2.

The health body says many more people have blood sugar levels above the normal range, but not high enough to be diagnosed as having diabetes.

It adds: “This is sometimes known as pre-diabetes. If your blood sugar level is above the normal range, your risk of developing full-blown diabetes is increased.

“It’s very important for diabetes to be diagnosed as early as possible because it will get progressively worse if left untreated.”

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