Diabetic ketoacidosis is treated with fluids, electrolytes — such as sodium, potassium and chloride — and insulin. Perhaps surprisingly, the most common complications of diabetic ketoacidosis are related to this lifesaving treatment.
Possible complications of the treatments
Treatment complications include:
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Insulin allows sugar to enter your cells, causing your blood sugar level to drop. If your blood sugar level drops too quickly, you can develop low blood sugar.
- Low potassium (hypokalemia). The fluids and insulin used to treat diabetic ketoacidosis can cause your potassium level to drop too low. A low potassium level can impair the activities of your heart, muscles and nerves.
- Swelling in the brain (cerebral edema). Adjusting your blood sugar level too quickly can produce swelling in your brain. This complication appears to be more common in children, especially those with newly diagnosed diabetes.
Left untreated, the risks are much greater. Diabetic ketoacidosis can lead to loss of consciousness and, eventually, it can be fatal.
Aug. 21, 2015
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- Kitabchi AE, et al. Diabetic ketoacidosis and hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state in adults: Clinical features, evaluation and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 2, 2015.
- Kitabchi AE, et al. Diabetic ketoacidosis and hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state in adults: Treatment. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 2, 2015.
- Jeffries CA, et al. Preventing diabetic ketoacidosis. Pediatric Clinics of North America. 2015;62:857.
- Checking for ketones. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/blood-glucose-control/checking-for-ketones.html. Accessed Aug. 2, 2015.