High blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) occur when your blood sugar (also called glucose) is higher than your body needs to function normally. High blood sugar levels can cause both immediate and long-term problems.
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 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 have an increased 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. Prompt medical evaluation and treatment are needed if symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis are present.
Treatment involves giving insulin and fluids through a vein and closely monitoring and replacing electrolytes.
Your risk of complications increases if your blood sugar levels are often above your target level. Persistently high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and nerves.
If your episodes of high blood sugar levels are occurring more frequently, a visit to your doctor is needed.
Last Revised: April 25, 2012
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