Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a severe diabetic complication that has to be managed in a hospital. It's characterized by high blood glucose (though it need not be very high) associated with an acid condition of the blood due to the production of ketones, which are the products of fat breakdown. The root of the illness is a lack of insulin. Without enough insulin, glucose can't get into insulin-dependent cells like muscle and the liver, so glucose accumulates in the blood, and the body turns to fat for energy.
In the following sections, I outline the causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment of DKA.
Although it's thought of as an illness of children, DKA occurs more often in adults than in children. Sixty percent of cases occur in people who are 40 years of age or older. DKA can result in death, especially in the elderly population when it's paired with other serious underlying diseases like heart disease, kidney disease, and infection. Over the age of 65, the death rate may be as high as 30 percent, but the overall death rate for DKA is less than 5 percent.
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