What is a Ketone Test?

Nat Robinson

A ketone test is a test designed to examine the amount of ketones present in the blood or urine. Ketones are acids produced by the body as it breaks down fats to be used for energy. Under normal circumstances, insulin makes it possible for the body to use sugars for fuel. If there is an insufficient amount of insulin present, the body will be unable to use sugar for energy and resort to using fats instead. As the body attempts to break down fats, ketones may accumulate in the blood, which can lead to severe illness.

A urine sample is required for some ketone tests.
A urine sample is required for some ketone tests.

To test the body for the presence of ketones, a person may have blood withdrawn or submit a urine sample. For a ketone blood test, a health care professional generally sterilizes the area of the body where he or she will withdraw blood. The blood sample will be obtained and sent off to a laboratory for an analysis. Some people having a ketone test may undergo a urine test. With a ketone urine test, a sample of urine is acquired which will also be sent to a laboratory for an examination.

Blood samples are examined during a ketone test.
Blood samples are examined during a ketone test.

Ketone testing may be done at a doctor's office, clinic or hospital. Most people undergoing a ketone test will not be required to make any particular preparations. If any particular thing is to be done prior to having the test, the doctor ordering the test will usually alert the patient. Fasting from foods or changing medication times or dosages are some preparations commonly required before undergoing certain blood and urine tests.

Strips to test for ketones in urine at home aren't as accurate as blood tests conducted in a lab.
Strips to test for ketones in urine at home aren't as accurate as blood tests conducted in a lab.

Undergoing a ketone test can be important to an individual's overall health. It is even more important in people who have diabetes. If ketones build up in the blood, a person may develop a serious health condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis. This is a condition which occurs when there are severely elevated levels of ketones in the blood. It is a complication of not having enough insulin available to properly break down glucose.

A person may have blood drawn in order to test the body for the presence of ketones.
A person may have blood drawn in order to test the body for the presence of ketones.

Diabetic ketoacidosis can cause nausea, fatigue, vomiting, shortness of breath and confusion. Very serious symptoms such as fainting, unconsciousness and swelling in the brain may also exist in severe cases. If not properly treated, the condition can become life threatening. The purpose of a ketone test is to diagnose unhealthy levels of ketones in the body before significant harm can be done. To treat high levels of ketones, doctors may initiate a type of insulin therapy and administer electrolytes and fluids intravenously.

The ketone test checks the blood or urine for certain acids produced by the body as it breaks down fats.
The ketone test checks the blood or urine for certain acids produced by the body as it breaks down fats.

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Discussion Comments

SteamLouis

Ketoacidosis is very dangerous. My neighbor was hospitalized recently due to it. He fainted suddenly and his wife thought that he was suffering from low blood sugar. So they rushed him to the hospital but it turns out that the ketones in his blood had sky-rocketed. He was under observation for a while and gave everyone a scare.

Although he is very good with his treatment and uses insulin properly, ketoacidosis still occurred.

ysmina

@fify-- Type 1 diabetics need to get a ketone test done on a regular basis. My friend has type 1 diabetes and I know that she uses the home test strips where she checks ketones in her urine. She told me that she checks when she feels unwell and when there are symptoms of ketoacidosis. I think she also gets a blood test done routinely.

I have type 2 diabetes and I have never had a ketone test because my body produces enough insulin. So my body does not break down fats for energy. But some people with type 2 diabetes have reduced insulin production and may need a routine ketone test just like a type 1 diabetic. So it depends on the individual and the type of diabetes.

Every individual diagnosed with diabetes should get a blood test to check the amount of insulin produced by their body. If the amount is lower than normal, then insulin shots and a routine ketone test will be needed.

fify

How often do diabetics generally get a ketone test done?

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