Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a life-threatening blood chemical (electrolyte) imbalance that develops in a person with diabetes when the cells do not get the sugar (glucose) they need for energy. As a result, the body breaks down fat instead of glucose and produces and releases substances called ketones into the bloodstream.
People with type 1 diabetes and some people with type 2 diabetes are at risk for DKA if they do not take enough insulin, have a severe infection or other illness, or become severely dehydrated.
Symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include:
Severe diabetic ketoacidosis can cause difficulty breathing, brain swelling (cerebral edema), coma, or death.
Treatment involves giving insulin and fluids through a vein and closely monitoring and replacing electrolytes.
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