Q – My doctor told me I needed to do ketone testing. What is it, how is it done and why is it important?
A – When you live with diabetes, there’s a lot to juggle. It can be understandable if your eyes glaze over when your physician or diabetes educator mentions ketone testing (another test!), but here’s why you should take this part of your treatment plan seriously:
Ketones are acid molecules generated when we burn fat for energy. This isn’t a problem as long as it doesn’t happen in excess. When you flood your body with too many acids, it starts to become toxic. Combined with dehydration and high blood glucose levels, it can lead to a life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).
Often, DKA can occur when you’re not able to get enough glucose into your cells to burn as energy, and the body relies almost exclusively on fat for fuel. This can occur for a number of reasons:
• Illness and infection (which can cause intense insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar)
• A lack of insulin in the body (due to missed injections, spoiled insulin, or poor absorption)
• Insulin pump malfunctions (clogs, leaks, air pockets, cannula displacement, prolonged
disconnection, failure to prime the tubing, or accidentally erasing the basal settings)
This is very different than nutritional ketosis, which is caused by starvation, prolonged fasting, or a severe lack of carbohydrates in one’s diet.
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