What Can Cause Acetone in Urine?

N. Madison
N. Madison

Acetone is a type of ketone, which is a substance released when the body uses fat for energy instead of carbohydrates. The presence of acetone in urine can be caused by a variety of situations, including starvation or fasting, high-protein or low-carbohydrate eating plans, type 1 diabetes, and other conditions associated with an abnormally high metabolism. Some of the acetone, as well as other ketones, leave the body through the urine.

Type 1 diabetes may cause acetone in urine if the condition is not properly managed.
Type 1 diabetes may cause acetone in urine if the condition is not properly managed.

Starving or fasting can cause ketosis, which is a condition marked by the use of fat for energy. The body should instead use a type of sugar called glucose, which it obtains from carbohydrates, for the energy it needs. If the body is not receiving enough glucose from food to keep up with the body’s metabolism, it targets fat, causes ketosis, and produces ketones like acetone and acetoacetic acid.

Eating a diet rich in protein can contribute to acetone in one's urine.
Eating a diet rich in protein can contribute to acetone in one's urine.

Certain diets also have the ability to cause the presence of acetone in urine. Low-carbohydrate diets, for example, involve significantly decreasing the amount of glucose a person consumes. These diets are typically taken on by people who want to lose fat quickly, and though they sometimes work, they can contribute to the development of ketosis.

Individuals who practice low-carb eating may find acetone in their urine.
Individuals who practice low-carb eating may find acetone in their urine.

Type 1 diabetes that isn't successfully treated may also contribute to the presence of acetone and other ketones. This type of diabetes causes ketosis because the body does not create enough of a hormone called insulin naturally, but the body requires insulin to use glucose for energy. When it cannot successfully process glucose, the body moves on to burning stored fat instead and producing acetone in the process.

Breastfeeding may cause the presence of acetone in a person's urine.
Breastfeeding may cause the presence of acetone in a person's urine.

There are several other conditions that may contribute to the presence of ketones in a person's urine. Among them are pregnancy, breastfeeding, and sometimes even fever. Each of these conditions can temporarily raise a person’s metabolism. When this happens, a person either eats more to compensate for the body burning glucose at a faster rate, or goes into ketosis, with the accompanying presence of acetone in urine.

When ketosis develops, it doesn't usually become dangerous right away, but it does cause the blood to become too acidic. In advanced and prolonged cases, it can become serious, damaging internal organs and even proving fatal. Likewise, the presence of ketones in the body of a pregnant woman can harm her unborn child. A doctor may decide to check for acetone in urine, as well as other ketones, if a person's blood sugar levels are abnormal, if he feels sick to his stomach frequently, or if he is more thirsty than normal. Dry mouth symptoms, breath that smells sweet, abnormal fatigue, and mental confusion can be signs of ketosis as well.

Acetone can be detected in urine via a urine test.
Acetone can be detected in urine via a urine test.
N. Madison
N. Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

anon960430

Nutritional ketosis and ketoacidosis are two different things. Ketoacidosis is a life threatening condition while nutritional ketosis is a metabolic state that humans were in for about 2.6 million years. The major cause of metabolic syndrome is carbohydrate intolerance. We eat many more carbohydrates that we can safely metabolize. This deviation from our genetic disposition results in high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, high triglycerides and all kinds of cardiovascular diseases.

Please read the relevant medical literature before lumping the two in one category. A couple of names to google: Steve Phinney, Jeff Volek, Chris Masterjohn, David Perlmutter, William Davis, Eric Westman, Robb Wolf, and Gary Taubes.

Confish

It's possible to check for ketones at home using a special type of urine testing kit. However, in order to get the most accurate results, you'll need to be sure and follow the directions very carefully. Once you purchase the testing kit, read the package insert from start to finish. It's also important to check the date on the ketone testing kit to make sure it's not outdated. You can also reach out to your primary care doctor or nurse and discuss the correct way to use an at-home ketone urine test kit.

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