Diabetes Ketoacidosis-Overview Full Information

Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a severe and potentially life-threatening complication of diabetes mellitus. It most commonly occurs in individuals with type 1 diabetes, but it can also affect those with type 2 diabetes in certain circumstances. Hyperglycemia, ketone body production, and metabolic acidosis define DKA.

Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!


Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a serious complication of diabetes mellitus, primarily affecting individuals with type 1 diabetes, although it can also occur in individuals with type 2 diabetes. DKA develops as a result of a relative or absolute deficiency of insulin in the body, leading to increased blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia), dehydration, and the accumulation of ketones in the blood.

The pathology of DKA involves several interconnected metabolic abnormalities. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the underlying pathology:

Insulin deficiency:

The primary trigger for DKA is an inadequate supply of insulin in the body. This can occur due to various reasons, such as missed insulin injections, insulin pump malfunction, illness, or undiagnosed diabetes.

Glucose accumulation:

In the absence of sufficient insulin, glucose uptake by cells is impaired. As a result, glucose builds up in the bloodstream, leading to hyperglycemia. Despite high blood glucose, cells need glucose for energy synthesis.

Increased lipolysis:

Due to the lack of insulin, the body starts breaking down fat stores to compensate for the energy deficit. This process, known as lipolysis, releases free fatty acids into the bloodstream.


Free fatty acids are transported to the liver, where they are converted into ketones, specifically beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHB) and acetoacetate (AcAc). Ketones serve as an alternative energy source for the body in the absence of glucose. Initially, the liver can handle the increased ketone production and convert them back into acetyl-CoA for energy utilization.

Ketone accumulation:

However, in DKA, the rate of ketone production exceeds the liver’s capacity to process them. As a result, ketones begin to accumulate in the blood, leading to a condition called ketonemia.


Excessive ketone accumulation leads to an imbalance in the body’s acid-base equilibrium. Ketones are acidic in nature, and their buildup lowers the blood pH, resulting in an acidic environment called metabolic acidosis. The pH decrease is primarily due to the increased production of ketones, such as BHB and AcAc.

Electrolyte imbalances:

The high blood glucose levels in DKA cause osmotic diuresis, leading to excessive urination. This results in the loss of electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, and bicarbonate through the urine. The depletion of these electrolytes further contributes to the acidosis and dehydration seen in DKA.


The combination of hyperglycemia, osmotic diuresis, and electrolyte losses leads to significant fluid depletion and dehydration in individuals with DKA. This dehydration further worsens the electrolyte imbalances and impairs normal bodily functions.

If left untreated, diabetic ketoacidosis can progress rapidly and become life-threatening. Prompt medical intervention is essential to restore insulin levels, correct electrolyte imbalances, and provide fluids to rehydrate the individual. Treatment typically involves insulin administration, intravenous fluids, and close monitoring of blood glucose levels, electrolytes, and acid-base balance.


DKA develops when there is a significant shortage of insulin in the body. Insulin, generated by the pancreas, regulates blood glucose levels and enables glucose to enter cells for energy. When insulin levels are insufficient, the body begins breaking down fat as an alternative energy source. This process leads to the production of ketone bodies as a byproduct, which accumulates in the blood, causing it to become acidic and leading to metabolic acidosis.

Several factors can contribute to the development of DKA:

  1. Insulin deficiency: Not taking enough insulin or a complete lack of insulin is the primary cause of DKA. This can result from missed insulin injections, malfunctioning insulin pumps, or insulin resistance.

  2. Illness or infection: Infections, such as urinary tract infections or respiratory infections, can increase insulin resistance and trigger DKA. Other illnesses, such as pneumonia or gastroenteritis, can cause dehydration and make it difficult to manage blood sugar levels.

  3. Dehydration: Inadequate fluid intake, excessive urination, and vomiting can lead to dehydration, which can worsen DKA.

  4. Medications or other substances: Certain medications, such as corticosteroids, can increase blood sugar levels and contribute to the development of DKA. Illicit drug use, particularly cocaine, and methamphetamines, can also trigger DKA.


The symptoms of DKA can develop rapidly over a short period. Common signs and symptoms include:

  1. Excessive thirst and frequent urination
  2. High blood sugar levels (typically above 250 mg/dL or 13.9 mmol/L)
  3. Abdominal pain and vomiting
  4. Deep, rapid breathing (Kussmaul breathing)
  5. Fruity-smelling breath
  6. Fatigue and weakness
  7. Confusion or difficulty concentrating
  8. Dry or flushed skin
  9. Nausea and loss of appetite

If left untreated, DKA can progress to a state of severe illness, leading to complications such as cerebral edema (swelling of the brain), cardiac arrhythmias, kidney problems, and even coma or death.


The diagnosis of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is typically made based on a combination of clinical presentation, blood tests, and urine tests. Here are the key components involved in diagnosing DKA:

  1. Medical history and physical examination: The doctor will review your medical history, including diabetes, insulin use, and DKA. Your health, vital signs, and indicators of dehydration will be examined.

  2. Blood glucose level: A blood glucose test is performed to measure your current blood sugar level. In DKA, blood glucose levels are typically high, often exceeding 250 mg/dL (13.9 mmol/L).

  3. Ketone levels:  Fat breakdown produces ketones without insulin. Urine and blood ketones are measured. Urine ketone strips are more accessible, but blood ketone values are more accurate. Moderate to high ketones suggest DKA.

  4. Arterial blood gas analysis:  This test detects arterial blood oxygen, CO2, pH, and bicarbonate. Ketones make DKA blood acidic. Bicarbonate levels drop.

  5. Electrolyte levels:  DKA electrolyte abnormalities such as low potassium, sodium, and chloride are assessed by blood testing. Dehydration and electrolyte losses cause these imbalances.

  6. Additional tests:  Additional tests may be done to assess kidney, liver, and underlying infection function.

DKA is an emergency that necessitates immediate hospitalization. Seek medical attention if you have DKA symptoms including extreme thirst, frequent urination, abdominal pain, vomiting, deep rapid breathing, or confusion. Your doctor will assess, test, and treat DKA.


DKA is a medical emergency that requires immediate hospitalization and specialized care. Treatment usually involves the following steps:

  1. Intravenous fluids: Fluids are administered intravenously to correct dehydration and restore electrolyte balance.

  2. Insulin therapy: Regular insulin is given intravenously to lower blood sugar levels and allow glucose to enter cells for energy.

  3. Electrolyte replacement: Imbalances in electrolytes, such as potassium, sodium, and bicarbonate, are corrected through intravenous administration.

  4. Identification and treatment of underlying causes: Any infections or illnesses contributing to DKA are identified and treated accordingly.

Monitoring and Prevention:

Monitoring and prevention of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) involve diligent diabetes management and awareness of potential triggers. Here are some key aspects of monitoring and prevention:

  1. Blood sugar monitoring: Regularly monitor your blood sugar levels as advised by your healthcare provider. This helps you stay aware of your glucose levels and take appropriate actions to prevent them from becoming too high or too low.

  2. Ketone testing:  Your doctor may recommend ketone testing if you have type 1 diabetes or are at risk of DKA. Ketone detection requires urine strips or blood testing. If you’re sick, have high blood sugar, or have DKA symptoms, ketones testing is crucial.

  3. Insulin management:  Take your doctor-prescribed insulin. This includes the following dosage, timing, and administration (injections or insulin pump). Avoid missing or delaying insulin doses without medical advice.

  4. Meal planning: Follow a diabetes-friendly diet. Balance carbohydrate consumption. Create a customized food plan with a nutritionist or diabetes educator.

  5. Hydration:  Hydrate throughout the day. Dehydration increases DKA risk. Drink water or other non-sugary drinks regularly.

  6. Sick-day management:  Infections and illnesses increase DKA risk. During illness, monitor blood sugar levels, stay hydrated, and take insulin or diabetic medications as prescribed. If your blood sugar stays high or you can’t drink, call your doctor.

  7. Education and awareness: Educate yourself about the signs, symptoms, and risk factors of DKA. Understanding the condition can help you recognize the early warning signs and seek timely medical attention if needed.

  8. Regular check-ups:  To manage diabetes, see your doctor regularly. These sessions allow you to review your medication, lifestyle, and diabetes management.

Preventing DKA isn’t always possible due to outside influences. However, aggressively managing your diabetes, communicating with your healthcare team, and swiftly addressing any changes or concerns can dramatically lower the risk of DKA.

Diabetes Ketoacidosis icd 10 and icd 11:

In medical coding, the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) provides a standardized system for classifying and coding diseases, including diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Here are the ICD-10 and ICD-11 codes related to DKA:


In ICD-10, the code for diabetic ketoacidosis is E10.1 for type 1 diabetes mellitus with ketoacidosis, and E11.1 for type 2 diabetes mellitus with ketoacidosis. These codes are further specified based on the presence of coma:

  • E10.10: Type 1 diabetes mellitus with ketoacidosis without coma
  • E10.11: Type 1 diabetes mellitus with ketoacidosis with coma
  • E11.10: Type 2 diabetes mellitus with ketoacidosis without coma
  • E11.11: Type 2 diabetes mellitus with ketoacidosis with coma

Note that codes may vary by country or location. It is important to consult the ICD-10 guidelines and any local modifications for accurate coding.


It was published in September 2021, although its adoption may vary by country or healthcare system. ICD-11 includes specific codes for diabetic ketoacidosis, which are classified under the “Endocrine, nutritional, or metabolic disorders” section. The codes for DKA in ICD-11 are:

  • 5A70.0: Diabetic ketoacidosis with coma
  • 5A70.1: Diabetic ketoacidosis without coma

It’s important to consult the latest version and any local modifications of ICD-11 for accurate coding information, as updates and changes to coding systems may occur over time.

Please note that certified medical coders or healthcare workers knowledgeable about their setting’s coding norms and practices should complete proper coding.

Read more…