Diabetic Ketoacidosis: When to seek medical advice?

By  , Expert Content
Jan 03, 2012

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Signs and symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis can be equivocal and many other conditions such as flu may have similar symptoms. Therefore, in many cases it may be difficult to diagnose if you have a simple viral infection or a more serious health problem like diabetic ketoacidosis. Risk of complications and death from diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), increases with delay in its diagnosis and treatment.

Contact your doctor if:

  • You have recurrent vomiting and are unable to retain any food or liquid.
  • You are a diabetic (any type of diabetes) and your blood sugar becomes high (more than 350 mg).
  • Your blood sugar level rises to more than your target range and does not respond to home treatment. After you are diagnosed with diabetes, ask your doctor for specific instructions regarding doses for your medication(s) and for checking your blood sugar and urinary ketone level whenever you become ill.
  • Or when you are ill, test your urine for ketones with home test strips. If your urinary ketones are elevated (moderate or higher), consult your doctor.
  • You have pain in stomach (abdominal pain is present in about 30 percent of the patients).


Contact your doctor immediately or seek emergency care if:

  • You have severe abdominal pain (it can also be due to some other medical problem such as appendicitis, cholecystitis etc).
  • Blood in vomitus (25 percent of patients with vomiting may have blood in vomiting; usually from gastritis).


When to go to the hospital : A person with diabetes should be taken to a hospital for urgent medical care if:

  • They appear significantly ill or weak.
  • Have change in mental status (confusion, altered consciousness or coma).
  • Have shortness of breath or rapid breathing.
  • Have low blood pressure (hypotension).
  • Are dehydrated.
  • Have high fever (above 101 F or 38.3 C).

If diabetic ketoacidosis is not treated, it can be fatal. Prompt and appropriate therapy has decreased the death rate and complication from this condition.


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