Ketone testing should be a part of your overall diabetes management. Unfortunately, many people with type 1 diabetes do not check for ketones as often as they should. Some never do. A lot of people with type 1 do not understand the reason for ketone testing or what having ketones means. To help you better manage your diabetes and stay healthy, here are some answers to the most common questions about ketones and testing.
What Are Ketones?
Ketones are a toxic by-product of burning fat for energy. When you do not have enough insulin to help your body use the sugar in your bloodstream for energy, your body will look for an alternate source of fuel in body fat. When fat is broken down, ketones form in the blood. If you have ketones, it might lead to the development of ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition where your body is being poisoned by the high concentration of ketones in your blood. If not treated, ketoacidosis can lead to coma or even death.
How Do I Test for Ketones?
As ketones build up in the blood, they eventually spill into the urine. A simple test can be performed at home using urine testing strips to detect the presence of ketones. When these test strips come in contact with urine they immediately change color to indicate the amount of ketones in the urine. Every person with type 1 should have a supply of urine test strips as part of their diabetes supplies and in their diabetes travel kit.
When Should I Test My Urine for Ketones?You should test your urine for ketones if you:
- have a glucose reading over 250 mg/dl for two consecutive tests
- are sick or have an infection
- are vomiting or have other symptoms of ketoacidosis
What Should I Do if the Ketone Test Is Positive?
If you have moderate to significant amounts of ketones in your urine and your blood glucose is high, you should contact your healthcare provider right away. You want to keep from moving into ketoacidosis, which is considered a medical emergency that might require hospitalization. Drink plenty of water to help flush out the ketones from your system. Test your blood sugar every 3 to 4 hours and continue to check your ketones if your blood sugar is over 250 mg/dl.
There are times when ketones may be present but your glucose level is not high, such as when you are dieting. This is not considered a medical emergency but you should test your ketones daily and consult with you healthcare provider if you continue to receive a positive ketone test result.
How Do I Test for Ketones and Where Can I Get Urine Strips?
There are several products that can be used to test for ketones and most are easy to use. You simply dip the end of the strip into fresh urine, remove and wait 15 seconds and compare the color of the strip to the color coding chart on the bottle. You can purchase ketone testing strips at most local and online pharmacies without a prescription.
Ketoacidosis. American Diabetes Association. Accessed May 8, 2009. http://www.diabetes.org/type-1-diabetes/ketoacidosis.jsp
Ketone Testing: What You Need to Know. Joslin Diabetes Center. Accessed May 7, 2008. http://www.joslin.org/managing_your_diabetes_688.asp