Why is There Hyperkalemia in Diabetic Ketoacidosis?

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a complicated condition which can be caused if you are unable to effectively treat and manage your diabetes. In this condition, ketones are accumulated in the blood which can adversely affect your health. It can be a fatal condition and may cause a lot of complications. One such complication in diabetic ketoacidosis is the onset of hyperkalemia or the high levels of potassium in the blood. In this article, we shall try to understand as to why hyperkalemia is caused in diabetic ketoacidosis? So, read on “Why is There Hyperkalemia in Diabetic Ketoacidosis?”

Table of Contents

What is Diabetic Ketoacidosis and Hyperkalemia?

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious complication that is faced by many patients suffering from diabetes. In this condition, excess blood acids called ketones are produced by the body. The above condition should not be taken lightly and should be immediately treated as the same can cause diabetic coma, and eventually the death of the patient.

Hyperkalemia refers to abnormally high levels of potassium in the blood of an individual. For a healthy individual, the level of potassium is around 3.5 to 5 milliequivalents per liter. If you have potassium levels higher than that, that is somewhere in between 5.1 to 6 milliequivalents per liter, then you have a mild level of hyperkalemia. Similarly, if the level of potassium in your blood is somewhere between 6.1 to 7 milliequivalents per liter, you have moderate hyperkalemia. Anything above that, you may be suffering from what is known as severe hyperkalemia.

Hyperkalemia in Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Relation Between Diabetic Ketoacidosis and Hyperkalemia

There appears to be a strong relationship between hyperkalemia and diabetic ketoacidosis. In the paragraph that follows, we shall try to analyze and understand the same:

If you have diabetes and have not been able to manage the chronic illness efficiently, it is highly likely that there will be disturbances caused by levels of potassium in your body. Diabetic ketoacidosis is caused due to the absence of adequate amounts of insulin in your body. Insulin is also considered to be one of the most effective regulators of potassium concentration of the individual’s body. Besides, the level of excessive potassium in the body is often associated with weakness of muscles.

People who generally suffer from diabetic ketoacidosis are those who have type 1 diabetes. In type 1, the patients do not have enough insulin in their body which results in the breakdown of cells storing fats. This further releases acid into the blood causing acidosis. Both acidosis and the high blood glucose levels work in tandem to move the potassium out of cells into the blood. This also increases potassium levels when the body is affected by diabetic ketoacidosis.

Another school of thought here is the shrinkage of cells caused in the body owing to the problem of diabetic ketoacidosis. This shrinkage is osmotic in nature and is also responsible for the release of potassium into the blood.

Many people do experience what is known as mild to moderate hyperkalemia as a result of inefficient diabetes management. However, severe cases of hyperkalemia are very rare and can be caused due to diabetic ketoacidosis which is caused by insulin deficiency, dehydration in the body as the fluids are washed by the kidneys, hyperosmolarity. Another important cause of the positive relation between hyperkalemia and diabetic ketoacidosis is the attempt of the kidneys to retain the potassium levels in our body. In severe cases of diabetes, the kidneys of the patients become less efficient in getting rid of the excess potassium levels through the urine.

Why is Hyperkalemia a Cause of Concern?

Hyperkalemia can have far-reaching effects on our body. It has several adverse health effects which are why you should be wary of this condition.

While potassium is necessary for the effective functioning of the heart and different muscles of the body, excessive levels of potassium should be avoided at the same time.

  • Hyperkalemia can cause interruptions in the electrical activity of the heart and can ultimately cause the heart to stop functioning.
  • Muscle paralysis can also be caused due to high levels of potassium in the body
  • Finally, the condition has far-reaching adverse effects on the skeletal muscles

We hope that the above article has helped you to understand more about hyperkalemia and how diabetic ketoacidosis can cause the condition. It can be really severe and as such, you should be able to effectively manage your diabetes and diabetic ketoacidosis so that you can avoid suffering from the high levels of potassium in your blood!!

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