Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

For those who are addicted to alcohol, especially in the long term, there are numerous significant risks.

From AWD and withdrawal symptoms to heart disease and wet brain, there are many potentially life-threatening outcomes to long term alcohol abuse.

There is one that many people are unaware of, however, and it is, unfortunately, one of the worst.

We’re talking about alcohol ketoacidosis.


What is Alcoholic Ketoacidosis?

Alcoholic Ketocidosis Diagram
Courtesy of Stanford University

As we’re sure you’re aware, the human body extracts glucose from the food we eat to use as energy. Glucose from our food and insulin from our pancreas are both required for our individual cells to function correctly.

This is the fundamental way in which our internal cells work, and they require both glucose and insulin to work effectively. However, when you drink alcohol, your pancreas stops creating insulin for a brief time.

Your cells need insulin in order to convert glucose into energy, so when this happens, the human body begins to burn its fat stores as energy instead.

Sounds good so far, right?

Unfortunately not.

When our fat stores are burnt for energy, a byproduct is created known as ketones.

This is fine in sustainable amounts when we aren’t producing insulin, ketones can build up in the bloodstream, which is what leads to the dangerous condition known as ketoacidosis.

This can be caused by overdosing on aspirin and similar painkillers, by kidney disease, starvation, diabetes, or even by severe shock.

However, here we’re talking specifically about alcoholic ketoacidosis. This is a condition that is caused by regular alcohol abuse interfering with insulin production as mentioned above, but there are also numerous other factors that can come into play, for example:

  • Malnutrition can cause ketoacidosis, and many alcoholics suffer from malnutrition due to damaged vitamin and mineral stores
  • Many alcoholics also fail to eat regularly enough, nutritionally enough, or just plain enough quantity-wise
  • Vomiting or dehydration, both common during heavy alcohol intoxication, can also worsen ketoacidosis

This perfect storm of causes and worsening factors can make alcohol ketoacidosis an extremely difficult thing to deal with, and if you believe you or a loved one are suffering from it, you should enlist professional help immediately.

But how do you know if somebody is suffering from ketoacidosis?

Let’s take a look at the main symptoms:


Alcoholic Ketoacidosis Symptoms

Symptoms can, of course, vary in severity depending on the volume of ketones that have built up in the bloodstream. 

In early stages when this is first occurring, symptoms can be quite mild, but as ketones continue to build up, they will become extremely severe.

The most common symptoms of alcoholic ketoacidosis are:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness and loss of coordination
  • Slow movement
  • Lethargy and loss of energy
  • Loss of alertness
  • Rapid breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain and/or nausea
  • Dehydration

While these symptoms can appear immediately, long term alcohol ketoacidosis can develop into more serious complications such as:

  • Coma
  • Encephalopathy
  • Psychosis
  • Pneumonia


Alcoholic Ketoacidosis Death

Unfortunately, if these symptoms are ignored and you fail to get medical help, they are lethal.

The most important thing to do if you believe you may be suffering from alcoholic ketoacidosis is to stop drinking as early as you possibly can.

Another worrying fact about alcoholic ketoacidosis is the fact that it seemingly goes underreported, with researchers believing that many deaths by ketoacidosis go down under other causes.

This is partially because ketoacidosis is quite complicated to diagnose, and partially because it can often come alongside or be mistaken for other alcohol-related conditions such as Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome.


Alcoholic Ketoacidosis Treatment

Treatment of alcoholic ketoacidosis is mainly done intravenously.

A patient may receive saline and dextrose to keep them hydrated, nourished and prevent further loss of energy.

They may also be given nutrients intravenously to make up for the loss of internal stores, including:

  • Potassium
  • Phosphorus
  • Magnesium
  • Thiamine

In extreme cases, this will come alongside a long-term stay in intensive care, with it being necessary to both overcome alcohol withdrawal and to completely refill the body’s stores of nutrients.


Get Help for Alcohol Addiction

Are you, a friend, or a family member struggling with alcohol addiction?

Do you believe you may even be suffering from alcoholic ketoacidosis?

We most important thing is to get immediate professional help.

We offer the UK’s leading alcohol home detox programme, allowing you to access GP consultations, therapists, nurses, withdrawal medication, nutritionists, and more, all from the comfort of your own home.

It’s the most affordable, least disruptive, and most reliable way to ensure you get on the path to recovery.

Want to learn more? Contact us NOW on 0333 444 0315 – we’re waiting to help!

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