What are ketones?
Usually your body’s source of energy is the carbohydrates from your diet which provide glucose to your body. However if your diet is low in carbohydrates or if your body cannot properly utilise glucose, your body will begin to burn your fat stores for energy. When that happens, ketones are formed as a by product in your urine.
What are the signs that I should test for ketones?
Consistent high blood sugar readings are a sign that you need to test yourself for the presence of ketones. Symptoms of high blood sugar include frequent urination, frequent thirst, blurry vision, dry mouth, vomiting and fatigue.
Ketones can be detected by a simple urine test. You should try to test for ketones:
- If your blood glucose is 250 mg/dl or higher for two tests in a row
- If you are ill. Sickness can cause infections and your blood glucose levels may be elevated. It’s a good idea to check for ketones at that time
- In the morning before breakfast when you are pregnant and if your blood glucose is above 250 mg/dl
You can test ketones from your urine using a dip stick. Ketones are measured on a scale of 0 to 4++ – 4++ being the highest. You may be prescribed test sticks to bring home or your doctor will usually do ketone tests when you go for your regular appointments. You should test at home whenever your doctor instructs that you do so.
People with diabetes may need ketone testing more frequently due to a limited carbohydrate intake. Many newly diagnosed diabetes patients tend to be very careful about what they eat and that may lead to not eating enough or not consuming enough carbs which are necessary for the body to function.
What do I do if I have ketones?
If you test positive for ketones, it is important to carefully monitor your blood sugars & keep yourself well hydrated. Drink plenty of water & no calorie fluids to help flush your system of ketones. Be sure to test your blood sugar every few hours and continue to test for ketones until your results come back negative. It is also important to refrain from exercising if you have ketones, as exercise will usually raise the level of ketones in your body. Large levels of ketones, high blood sugars & vomiting is a reason to seek emergency care or to discuss your condition with your healthcare team
The key to preventing ketones is striking a good balance between eating enough carbs and maintaining good blood glucose levels. In some cases, diabetes patients who aren’t able to strike a balance, may be introduced insulin to prevent ketones from developing.