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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Symptoms

Symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis include:

  • Frequent urination

  • Extreme thirst

  • Dry mouth

  • Cool skin

  • Nausea and vomiting with or without abdominal pain

As blood ketone levels increase, the person's breathing pattern may become slow and deep, and his or her breath can have a fruity odor. A person with ketoacidosis may seem to be tired or confused or may have trouble paying attention. Without prompt treatment in the first day of symptoms, the illness may cause low blood pressure, a loss of consciousness, coma or death.

If you have type 1 diabetes, it is important to measure your blood glucose levels at home using a machine called a glucometer. You also should have paper test strips that can detect ketones in the urine. If your blood glucose reading is above 300 milligrams per deciliter, you should test your urine for ketones. If the urine test strip reads "moderate" or "large," it's possible you have ketoacidosis.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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