Click here to return to the LMHS Home Page

 

Print-Friendly
Bookmarks

Alcoholic ketoacidosis

Ketoacidosis - alcoholic

 

Alcoholic ketoacidosis is the buildup of ketones in the blood. Ketones are a type of acid that form when the body breaks down fat for energy.

The condition is an acute form of metabolic acidosis.

Causes

 

Alcoholic ketoacidosis is caused by very heavy alcohol use. It most often occurs in a malnourished person who drinks large amounts of alcohol every day.

 

Symptoms

 

Symptoms of alcoholic ketoacidosis include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Agitation
  • Changed level of alertness, which may lead to coma
  • Confusion
  • Fatigue
  • Slow, sluggish movements
  • Deep, labored, rapid breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Symptoms of dehydration, such as dizziness, light-headedness, and thirst

 

Exams and Tests

 

Tests may include:

  • Arterial blood gases (measure the acid/base balance and oxygen level in blood)
  • Blood alcohol level
  • Blood chemistries, and liver function tests
  • CBC (complete blood count, measures red and white blood cells, and platelets, which help blood to clot)
  • Prothrombin time (PT, a different measure of blood clotting, often abnormal from liver disease)
  • Toxicology (poison) screening
  • Urine ketones

 

Treatment

 

Treatment may involve fluids (salt and sugar solution) given through a vein. You may need to have frequent blood tests. You may get vitamin supplements to treat nutritional deficiencies caused by excess alcohol use.

People with this condition are usually admitted to the hospital, often to the intensive care unit (ICU). Additional medicines may be given to prevent alcohol withdrawal.

 

Outlook (Prognosis)

 

Prompt medical attention improves the overall outlook. How severe the alcoholism is, and the presence of liver disease or other problems, may also affect the outlook.

 

Possible Complications

 

This can be a life-threatening condition. Complications may include:

  • Coma and seizures
  • Gastrointestinal bleeding
  • Inflamed pancreas
  • Pneumonia

 

When to Contact a Medical Professional

 

If you or someone else has symptoms of alcoholic ketoacidosis, seek emergency medical help.

 

Prevention

 

Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink may help prevent this condition.

 

 

References

Carpenter CR. Alcoholic ketoacidosis, In: Adams JG, ed. Emergency Medicine: Clinical Essentials. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 161.

Seifter JL. Acid-Base disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 118.

BACK TO TOPText only

 

        A Closer Look

         

          Self Care

           

            Tests for Alcoholic ketoacidosis

             
               

              Review Date: 4/30/2015

              Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

              The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
              adam.com

               
               
               

               

               

              A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.