What is Diabetic Ketoacidosis & The Onset of Type 1 Diabetes?

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Knowledge is power. It’s a phrase that can ring true about a lot of things. We may learn something that may seem non-essential at the time, but later could save a life. When it comes to being a mom, all knowledge is vital, especially medically speaking. Do you know the warning signs of the onset of Type 1 Diabetes or what Diabetic Ketoacidosis is?

What is Diabetic Ketoacidosis & The Onset of Type 1 Diabetes?

Diabetic ketoacidosis, also called DKA, is a life-threatening complication occurring with undiagnosed and/or untreated Type 1 diabetes in adults and children.

What is Type 1 diabetes? Simply put, it is an autoimmune disease in which the pancreas no longer produces the necessary insulin the body needs. Without this insulin, glucose (sugar) accumulates on the blood and cannot be used to produce energy.  It does not go away and there is currently no cure.

Once diagnosed, those with Type 1 diabetes must constantly monitor and manage blood glucose levels and inject or pump the needed insulin into their bodies.

Back to DKA. With the onset of Type 1 diabetes, one may not know their body isn’t producing the insulin and their blood glucose levels are dangerously rising.

The untreated Type 1 diabetes can often seem like common cold or flu illnesses.

The symptoms can include:

  • excessive thirst
  • frequent urination
  • bedwetting​
  • increased appetite
  • sugar cravings
  • abdominal pain
  • irritability or mood changes
  • headaches
  • vision changes/blurriness
  • itchy skin or genitals
  • vaginal yeast infection
  • thrush
  • ​slow healing wounds
  • ​recurrent infections
  • sudden weight loss
  • flushed, hot, dry skin
  • muscle or leg cramps
  • fruity/acetone scented breath
  • nausea and vomiting*
  • weakness or fatigue*
  • shortness of breath*
  • labored breathing*
  • drowsiness or lethargy*
  • confusion*
  • stupor*
  • unconsciousness*
    *A combination of these symptoms can be life-threatening and indicates possible DKA has developed. Seek emergency medical care immediately.

A simple glucose test can detect early onset Type 1 diabetes and stop diabetic ketoacidosis before it becomes too dangerous. Just knowing this information can be helpful!

However, I didn’t know any of this just over a month ago.

My five year old son was drinking a ton of water, using the bathroom almost every thirty minutes and wasn’t really acting like himself. He’s a growing boy, so at first, I didn’t think much of it. After a few days, I decided to take him to the pediatrician for a quick checkup. She immediately noticed a fruity scent in his breath. His blood glucose levels were too high for the monitor to read. She was pretty sure he had the onset of Type 1 diabetes and could have a mild case of DKA.

I was completely caught off-guard. We all were. We ended up in Children’s Hospital for 3 days to get his levels down & monitor him. I also spent those days getting educated about Type 1 diabetes, how we will manage it, how to give insulin shots, etc. He has been so strong and brave through it all. It is now just part of our everyday lives.

When we got home from the hospital, I spent countless hours researching Type 1 diabetes (and still do). It was heartbreaking reading articles that had a much worse outcome. Not all children (or adults) catch it in time. We are lucky our amazing pediatrician was knowledgeable.

Will I be sharing any more Type 1 diabetes information here on Nifty Mom? I haven’t decided yet. I may start a series, I may start a whole other blog dedicated to it.

For now, I just want to make sure everyone is aware of diabetic ketoacidosis to help stop missed or delayed diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes.

*Image from testonedrop.org, where more information can be found. 


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2 comments on What is Diabetic Ketoacidosis & The Onset of Type 1 Diabetes?

  • Traci

    Love your blog and this article. From a t1 mom, I am sorry for son and your family. It is a family disease when they are this young. Hold on to each other and stay tough. It is a crazy ride, but it can bring you all closer together. Blessings.

    • Samantha (author)

      Thank you for your kind words! It means a lot!

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