JDRFInformation & supportManaging type 1 diabetesWhat is diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)?

What is diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA)?

If your body does not have enough insulin, it can lead to a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). It can occur when you’re ill, during a growth spurt or puberty, or if you haven’t taken your insulin.

DKA occurs when a severe lack of insulin means the body cannot use glucose for energy and starts to break down fat instead. Organic compounds called ketones are the by-product of the breakdown of fat and, if left unchecked, can build up and cause the body to become acidic.

The main symptoms of DKA include:

  • Heavy or laboured breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Stomach pains
  • Stupor or unconsciousness

What should I do?

If you are experiencing these symptoms you must go to hospital immediately. DKA is very serious, and can be fatal.