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Ketones: What you Need to Know

What are ketones?
Ketones (acid) are a result of fat breakdown. The body breaks down fat when it cannot access sugar (glucose). Ketones are usually an indicator that there is little to no insulin. Ketones are usually associated with elevated glucose levels but can occur with in-range target glucose. Ketones are typically only monitored in type 1 diabetes because usually in type 2 diabetes, the pancreas produces enough insulin to reduce the risk for ketone production. However, if you are ever in doubt, check for ketones.

Why are we concerned about ketones?
High levels of ketones – called Diabetic Ketoacidosis or DKA – can be incredibly dangerous and life-threatening if not treated promptly.

The most common causes of DKA are:
1. Undiagnosed type 1 diabetes
2. Omission of insulin
3. Illness (Not enough insulin to meet the body’s needs)

Signs or symptoms associated with DKA are:
• Ketones in the urine or blood
• Dehydration (dry mouth or lips, sunken eyes or skin that remains pinched up when you pinch it)
• Nausea and vomiting
• Fruity breath
• Rapid breathing (Kussmaul breathing)
• Abdominal pain
• Drowsiness or confusion

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