What Are the Different Causes of Ketoacidosis?

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  • Written By: A. Gamm
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2019
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Ketoacidosis typically occurs when insulin levels are too low. It primarily occurs in people with type one diabetes and may rarely happen to people with type two diabetes. Some common causes of ketoacidosis include various illnesses and injuries, stress, lack of food, and insufficient insulin dosage. Symptoms of ketoacidosis consist of blurred vision, extreme thirst, general confusion, low blood pressure, and possible coma or death.

One of the primary causes of ketoacidosis is from low insulin levels in the body. When the insulin levels are too low it becomes difficult for cells to use the glucose in the body, and instead fat is stored as the energy source. This creates what is known as ketones, which are acids that are toxic to the body. People with type one diabetes are more likely to experience ketoacidosis than a person who does not have diabetes. It is rare for people with type two diabetes to experience this, as insulin levels rarely go down low enough.

Illnesses and infections are two possible causes of ketoacidosis in people. This is because the body produces adrenaline to fight off the sickness. The adrenaline inhibits insulin effectiveness in the body and makes it harder for the body to properly utilize glucose. Other events that also produce enough adrenaline to inhibit insulin include emotional as well as physical trauma like surgery and stress.


An insufficient dose of insulin or a missed dose is one of the common causes of ketoacidosis in people with type one diabetes. It is recommended that a strict dosage schedule is kept to prevent this from happening. It is possible to detect a high number of ketones in urine during the morning when insulin is not taken throughout the night. Not consuming enough food throughout the day may also cause this condition as the blood sugar levels may drop as the day continues. Other causes include drug and alcohol abuse, stroke or heart attack.

Dehydration may be considered one of the causes of ketoacidosis as well as a symptom. Other symptoms that may appear include dry mouth, skin that feels cold, nausea with possible vomiting, and abdominal pain. It is also possible for a person to experience confusion, low blood pressure, and intolerance to liquid or food. If left untreated, it may eventually lead to coma and possible death. When a person suspects he or she has ketoacidosis, it is recommended to seek medical attention right away.


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