Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA): Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 11/29/2016

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a life-threatening complication of type 1 diabetes that occurs when the body makes high levels of ketones due to lack of insulin. It is rare but possible for DKA to occur in people with type 2 diabetes. In diabetic ketoacidosis, elevated blood sugar, elevated ketone levels, and acidity of the blood (acidosis) interfere with many critical body functions. DKA symptoms can include

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical care and treatment in an intensive-care setting. Diabetic ketoacidosis can lead to diabetic coma and may even be fatal.

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) causes

DKA is caused by high levels of ketones in the body, which are produced due to too low levels of insulin in people with diabetes. A number of factors can precipitate an episode of DKA, and infection is the most common of these. Other factors that can cause someone with diabetes to develop DKA include stopping insulin treatment, inadequate insulin treatment, stroke, pancreatitis, heart attack, and certain medications or drugs.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/29/2016

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