Consistently high blood glucose levels in the short term can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).
Ketoacidosis happens because of a lack of glucose entering the cells, where it acn be produced as energy. The body therefore begins to use stores of fat as an alternative form of energy, in turn this produces an acidic by-product known as ketones.
Ketones are harmful to the body, therefore it will try to get rid of them immediately by excreting them in urine. When ketones are present and the blood glucose levels are riding, the person often becomes increasingly thirsty as the body tries to flush them out.
If the ketones continues to rise, ketoacidosis willl develop. Ketoacidosis means acidity of the blood, this is due to an axcess of ketones in the body). The harmful effect becomes more appararent, and nausea or vomiting may begin and you can get dry skin, blurry eyesight and deep and rapid breathing.
If you start to vomit the body will become even more dehydrated and less efficient at flushing the ketones out, which will make the levels rise even faster. As the ketones rise it may be possible to smell them on he breath, apparently it smells like pear drops or nail varnish.
If by this stage it hasnt been treated, the ketones and blood glucose will continue to rise, which will result in a coma which could be fatal. However at any of the stages above it is extremely dangerous, and should be treated immediately in order to limit damage.
Anyone with diabetes who adminsters insulin could develop ketoacidosis. Diabetics that are controlled with diet or tablets have also been know to develop ketoacidosis.
Ketoacidosis often occours when you are unwell, this is the body’s response to the illness and infection, so it releases more glucose into the bloodstream, which stops insulin from working properly.
When ill, even if you are not eating it is very important to still take insulin. More frequent blood tests are required in order to keep an eye on blood glucose levels.
Ketones are detected by a simple urine test, and these test strips are available on prescription. If your blood glucose is high (usually over 15mmol/l) or you have any symptoms of ketoacidosis you should test your urine for ketones.
If you do have a high level of ketones in your urine (this is shown on the ketones test), and a high blood glucose level you should call your doctor or diabetes specalist nurse immediately, or go to the nearest A&E.