Diabetic ketoacidosis

Hand holding a blood glucose meter measuring blood sugar, the background is a stethoscope and chart file

And this is where is all begins. The immune function sets into action launching an attack on the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. For some reason an autoimmune response is triggered by ones body. Due to this malfunction, less insulin is available to deal with the carbohydrates, and eventually there are no more insulin producing cells left.

Somewhere in this initial process, ketoacidosis occurs. It can be fatal and is a leading cause of death in diabetics. Recognizing the signs, or at least realizing that something is not right can avoid life threatening and severely unwell individuals.

Ketoacidosis is basically where the body is not delivering the much needed insulin to deal with the sugars (carbs) in foods. Instead the body turns to burning fat for energy. Sounds good; however, ketones are produced in this process and create a chemical imbalance in the blood. The ketones begin to essentially poison the blood and left untreated leads to severe illness and death.

Typical signs and symptoms include:

  •  Thirst
  • Hunger
  • weight loss
  • Frequent urination
  • vomiting
  • fatigue

We had initially noticed an increase in diet for our four year old. Though it’s also not uncommon for kids to have growth spurts that coincide with eating a lot more. I also thought perhaps my son had worms. And yes we did reach for some combantrin.

Next, we noticed Noah’s need for constant drinks. And we did often give him juice (just the worst thing to give him)! Naturally, he needed to pee a lot. We checked to see if it hurt for him to pee, a common sign of kidney issues. That wasn’t the case. We hadn’t noticed weight loss but he had lost some weight.

Finally, after taking him to a public toilet at the beach excessively numerous times, noticing he was fatigued and something just wasn’t right, Noah was off to the hospital.

Once at the hospital, a simple blood test with super high blood sugar readings, along with ketones, confirmed a diabetes diagnosis. We had no understanding of diabetes and it really blind-sighted us. 

Ketoacidosis for us throughout the years has been kept at bay with good diabetes management. For many others, ketoacidosis can hit much harder. 

We learnt shortly after our son’s initial diagnosis, his great grandmother’s sister died from diabetic ketoacidosis. These were the days where the treatment was quite different and much harder to manage and knowledge less available.

We are so thankful to live in a country where diabetic support and technology is improving all the time. 

Peter Butler

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