Diabetic ketoacidosis

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Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a potentially life-threatening complication in patients with diabetes mellitus. It happens predominantly in those with type 1 diabetes, but it can occur in those with type 2 diabetes under certain circumstances. DKA results from a shortage of insulin; in response the body switches to burning fatty acids and producing acidic ketone bodies that cause most of the symptoms and complications.[1]

DKA may be the first symptom of previously undiagnosed diabetes, but it may also occur in known diabetics due to a variety of causes, such as intercurrent illness or poor compliance with insulin therapy. Vomiting, dehydration, deep gasping breathing, confusion and occasionally coma are typical symptoms. DKA is diagnosed with blood and urine tests; it is distinguished from other, rarer forms of ketoacidosis by the presence of high blood sugar levels. Treatment involves intravenous fluids to correct dehydration, insulin to suppress the production of ketone bodies, treatment for any underlying causes such as infections, and close observation to prevent and identify complications.[1][2]

DKA is a medical emergency, and without treatment it can lead to death. DKA was first described in 1886; until the introduction of insulin therapy in the 1920s it was almost universally fatal.[3] It now carries a mortality of less than 5% with adequate and timely treatment.[4]

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