Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

Alcoholic ketoacidosis is a condition when ketones build up in the blood due to excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages. If not treated immediately, high levels of ketones in the body can be life threatening to sufferers.

Alcoholic ketoacidosis is a form of  metabolic acidosis  due to alcohol addiction. This condition is more often found in someone who is malnourished and consumes large amounts of alcoholic beverages every day.

Causes of Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

Excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages in the long term can cause malnutrition, which is a condition when the body lacks sugar (glucose). Low glucose in the blood causes reduced insulin production. This causes the body can not process glucose into energy. As a result, the body that needs energy will burn fat as a reserve form to get energy.

When fat is burned for energy, the body produces ketone acids. If fat burning continues, ketone levels will accumulate in the blood, causing a person to experience ketoacidosis.

The next process is dehydration . Dehydration occurs due to vomiting which causes the kidneys' ability to excrete ketones through urine decreases. As a result, there is an increase in acid levels in the blood.

There are several conditions that can increase the risk of developing alcoholic ketoacidosis, namely:

  • Suffering from another illness, such as  pneumonia , a urinary tract infection, or a heart attack that increases the levels of certain hormones, such as adrenaline or cortisol
  • Lack of dosage or adherence to using  insulin injections in diabetics
  • Abusing drugs, especially cocaine
  • Experiencing physical or psychological trauma
  • Taking certain medications, such as corticosteroids or  diuretics

Symptoms of Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

The symptoms of alcoholic ketoacidosis depend on how much alcohol you consume and how much your blood ketone levels increase. Symptoms that appear can be:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Movement becomes sluggish
  • Dizzy
  • Nauseous
  • Vomit
  • Stomach ache
  • Body feels tired
  • Often feel thirsty
  • Nervous
  • Tachycardia
  • Breathing becomes fast, deep, and irregular (Kussmaul breathing)
  • Breath that smells like fruit (ketone smell)
  • Dry mouth

When to see a doctor

Seek immediate medical attention if you see someone with symptoms of alcoholic ketoacidosis, especially if they are accompanied by other emergency symptoms, such as:

  • Terrible vomiting
  • Looks dazed
  • Loss of consciousness which can lead to  coma

Diagnosis of alcoholic ketoacidosis

A person can be suspected of suffering from alcoholic ketoacidosis if they experience the symptoms mentioned above, especially if there is a history of alcohol addiction. However, to be sure, the doctor will carry out the following examinations:

  • Blood gas analysis , to determine oxygen levels and acid-base balance in the blood
  • Check for ketones in blood and urine
  • Complete blood count
  • Examination  of liver function
  • Kidney function test
  • Examination of pancreatic function, to detect pancreatitis
  • Measuring blood sugar levels and hemoglobin A1c ( HbA1c ), to detect diabetes
  • Toxicology test, to detect poison

Treatment of Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

Treatment of alcoholic ketoacidosis aims to overcome  acid-base balance disorders . Treatment also aims to stop consuming alcoholic beverages and relieve alcohol withdrawal symptoms .

Patients with alcoholic ketoacidosis must get treatment in the hospital. During treatment, the doctor will observe the patient's vital condition, such as blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration.

A number of medical treatments given by doctors to treat alcoholic ketoacidosis are:

  • Administration of special intravenous fluids
  • Provision of nutrition and vitamins in the form of vitamin B1, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium, to overcome malnutrition
  • Administration of drugs to patients who also suffer from other diseases, such as pancreatitis
  • Administration of other additional drugs, such as benzodiazepines , in patients with alcohol withdrawal syndrome

If deemed necessary, the doctor will place the patient in the intensive care unit for further treatment. The length of treatment depends on the severity of the alcoholic ketoacidosis and how quickly the patient recovers from the dangerous condition. If there are complications during treatment, the patient will be treated longer.

Complications of alcoholic ketoacidosis

Alcoholic ketoacidosis that doesn't get treated right away can cause complications, such as:

  • Bleeding in the digestive tract
  • Hypovolemic shock
  • Heart attack
  • Delirium
  • Pneumonia
  • Pancreatic inflammation
  • Encephalopathy
  • seizures
  • Coma

Prevention of alcoholic ketoacidosis

Alcoholic ketoacidosis can be prevented by limiting or stopping the consumption of alcoholic beverages. If you are already addicted to alcohol and find it difficult to stop or limit your consumption, consult your doctor.

Prevention can also be done with a support system or support from the closest people, such as family, friends, or the community. Such support can help with efforts to overcome alcohol addiction .

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