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Ketones are produced when the body burns fat.  You may also find a small amount of ketones in the urine or blood when you are losing weight, during heavy exercise or when resting for long periods.

In a person with Type 1 Diabetes the presence of high blood glucose levels and ketones in the urine or blood warns that their diabetes is seriously out of control.  If your blood glucose level is higher than 14mmol/l you must check your urine or blood for ketones, especially if you are feeling sick, unwell or have a temperature.  Blood glucose levels may be higher than normal, even if you are eating less.  You must check for ketones if you are vomiting, even if your blood glucose levels are normal.

A high level of ketones in the urine or blood with a high blood glucose reading is a warning sign that your body urgently needs rapid acting insulin.  You are at risk of developing Diabetic Ketoacidosis.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)

Diabetes ketoacidosis (DKA) is caused by not having enough insulin in the body.  When you are sick, it can develop quickly, within a few hours.  Drowsiness and unconsciousness may follow.  It can be a life threatening condition.

When your body does not have enough insulin, blood glucose levels will rise.  Your body starts to burn fat for energy.  The breakdown of fat in the body causes ketones to be produced.  DKA can occur when high levels of ketones build up in the blood.

Fluid losses are increased with high blood glucose and ketone levels.  This can cause the body to become dehydrated.  You should drink plenty of fluids to try and prevent this.

You must always check for ketones when:

  • Blood glucose is above 14mmol/l
  • If you feel symptoms of high blood glucose
  • If you feel sick/unwell or have a temperature

Need More Help?

The CHOICE diabetes education programme is available in NI and the border counties of Republic of Ireland, ask your Diabetes Team

Choice Programme