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Ketosis and Ketoacidosis: How Are They Different?

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

[Total: 1 Average: 5]

Ketosis and ketoacidosis may be similar-sounding terms, but they are completely different conditions. While one helps to lose weight and extra fat in the body, the other is a life-threatening condition that can be controlled. Let us look at what both ‘Ketosis and Ketoacidosis’ mean.

Ketosis and Ketoacidosis

What is Ketoacidosis?

The full term is known as Diabetic Ketoacidosis. It usually occurs in people with Type 1 diabetes. When the insulin levels drop too much, the blood sugar becomes very high. Since insulin is responsible for transporting the glucose molecules to the cells, they feel starved. To derive energy for biological processes, the body starts burning fat. This leads to the formation of ketones in the blood that is acidic. This causes a chemical imbalance in blood and is known as Diabetic Ketoacidosis. The condition can cause serious harm to various organs and shut down the human body.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis can be life-threatening if left untreated. The elevated acid levels in the body can result in loss of consciousness, going into a coma and even death. While it is primarily a condition that affects those with Type 1 diabetes, in rare cases it can affect those with Type 2 diabetes when their insulin levels fall really low.

The various causes of diabetic ketoacidosis are the inefficient management of diabetes or low levels of insulin. Injuries, illnesses, socially urinary tract infections, and pneumonia, emotional or physical trauma, drug abuse, excessive alcohol consumption, steroids medication and diuretics affect insulin levels tremendously. Those who have recently had a heart attack or a pancreatic infection are also vulnerable to diabetic ketoacidosis. The condition can develop in a short period, sometimes within 24 hours. Research says that diabetic ketoacidosis is the leading cause of death in people less than 24 years of age.

You can take some important steps to help prevent diabetic ketoacidosis which includes – Checking your blood sugar often, especially if you’re sick, keeping your blood sugar levels in your target range as much as possible, taking medicines as prescribed, even if you feel fine, consulting your doctor about how to adjust your insulin based on what you eat, how active you are, or if you’re sick.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj – M.B.B.S, M.D.

Symptoms of Diabetic ketoacidosis

  • Excessive thirst
  • Excessive urination
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Breathlessness
  • Fruity-smelling breath
  • Confusion
  • High blood sugar

Treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis usually involves the administration of insulin and electrolytes. Insulin helps to bring down the high glucose levels and electrolytes are given to replenish those that have been lost due to urination, vomiting and loss of appetite and to restore nerve, muscle and heart function.

Prevention of diabetic ketoacidosis is through good control of blood sugar levels. If the sugar levels are consistently higher than 300mg/dL, call an emergency. Keep urine test strips that check for ketone levels at home or with you if you will be away from home for a long time. If the tests show moderate to high levels of ketones, consult your doctor immediately. Drink plenty of fluids to flush out the toxins from the blood and take insulin medicines or injections to help your body.

The situation improves within 48 hours of being administered medical treatment. The doctor may review your insulin dosage to avoid further emergencies.

However, Ketoacidosis is not to be confused with ketosis. Ketosis and Ketoacidosis, while they may sound similar to the untrained mind, they are very different. Let’s learn how.

Also Read: Why Does My Poop Smell So Bad? Unpacking Digestive Health Concerns

What is Ketosis?

Ketosis is a natural biological state that the body enters into when burning fat as fuel in the absence of glucose. It happens in those who follow a low carbohydrate diet or those who have been fasting.   To burn fats instead of sugars is the aim of many low-carb diets that aim at weight reduction.

Those who follow a ketogenic diet undergo the process of ketosis. They limit their intake of carbohydrates and eat high fat and a moderate amount of protein in their diet. The protein aspect of the ketogenic diet is important since it stops the body from using up muscles (which are made of proteins) as a source of fuel. Forced to turn to fats, the body becomes leaner and fitter.

Ketones are the byproduct of fat-burning in the body. The liver burns off the fatty acids to provide fuel to the body and the ketones, thus formed, provide energy to the vital organs. A ketogenic diet helps to burn fat as the carb intake is much lesser. Plus it has more satiety levels. Research done on the ketogenic diet shows that it improves brain performance, reduces seizures in epileptic patients, benefits those with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s and enhances the performance of those who are involved in long stretches of exercise. The Ketogenic diet, when done under the supervision of experts, can help diabetics in executing good blood glucose control. It helps to boost the overall metabolic health of any individual.

There are some groups that must not follow the ketosis pattern of weight loss. Pregnant women, lactating mothers, people with kidney damage, and those who take certain medications must avoid ketosis happening in their bodies.

Diabetics who are on a weight loss journey will have some amount of ketones in their blood and urine. This is not a cause of worry as long as the blood sugar levels are kept within the permissible limits. The blood sugar levels must never cross 250mg/dL.

Ketosis and diabetic ketoacidosis are two conditions that are often confused with one another. While ketosis is a metabolic state the body goes into when it begins to burn stored fat for energy, diabetic ketoacidosis is a complication of diabetes (typically type 1 diabetes) which causes the body to produce excess blood acids.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

Ketosis and Ketoacidosis: Takeaway

Both the conditions, Ketosis and Ketoacidosis sound the same but are vastly different. If you plan to undergo a ketosis treatment voluntarily, talk to your doctor to rule out any possible negative outcomes. If you are a diabetic, continue taking insulin medicines even if you are ill or have suffered an injury. Take your medication on time to avoid complications. In case you feel you are suffering from diabetic ketoacidosis, call your doctor and head to the emergency section.

KetosisKetoacidosis
Helps the bodyHarms the body
Low levels of ketones in the bloodstreamHigh levels of ketones in the bloodstream
A natural process of the bodyBrought about by poor management of diabetes
SafeUnsafe
Occurs due to low quantities of carbohydrates in the dietOccurs due to low levels of insulin in the body
Can happen to anyoneAffects only those with diabetes
Doesn’t require medical treatmentNeeds immediate medical attention

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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