How do you define Ketones and diabetes?

Updated at: Jan 15, 2013
How do you define Ketones and diabetes?

Know about ketones and why are they formed in people with diabetes?

Dr Poonam Sachdev
DiabetesWritten by: Dr Poonam SachdevPublished at: Jan 05, 2012

Ketones are often present in bloodstream of people with diabetes—especially if your blood sugar is not well controlled. If left untreated excess ketones in your body can lead to ketoacidosis and complications due to it.


What are ketones and why are they formed in people with diabetes?


Ketones are a type of acid that is formed when the body burns its own fat instead of blood glucose for energy. Glucose is the type of simple sugar that the cells use for energy. Insulin is a hormone that helps in metabolism of blood glucose and it’s utilization for energy by different cells of the body. In people with diabetes the blood glucose or blood sugar levels are high but the cells are not able to utilize this for energy----so practically your cells are starving even though there is plenty of glucose in the blood. Hence your body burns fats for energy and this leads to formation of ketones.


If you have type 1 diabetes your doctor will recommend testing for ketones if your blood sugar is higher than 250 mg/dl. People with type 2 diabetes are less likely to have excess ketones but it can be a complication of type 2 diabetes as well. If ketones are present in your urine then it indicates that your blood sugar needs to be controlled more tightly.


Excess ketones in blood leads to DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis). Early signs and symptoms of DKA include:

  • stomach pain,
  • nausea and/or vomiting,
  • breathlessness,
  • lethargy,
  • confusion
  • breath that smells of fruit.

If you have symptoms suggestive of DKA contact your doctor as soon as possible. DKA is an extremely severe condition which can be fatal.


Pregnant women with diabetes are tested regularly for ketones. If your test report shows presence of ketones contact your doctor as soon as possible.


Remember that you can prevent ketoacidosis by keeping your blood sugar as normal as possible. Take your medication regularly as prescribed by your doctor. Go for regular follow up for blood sugar level testing.


Dr Poonam Sachdeva, our in-house medical expert talks about the why what and how in diabetes.


Read more articles on Understand Diabetic Ketoacidosis


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