Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a potentially lifethreatening complication that may occur in people who have diabetes, most often in those who have type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetes. It involves the buildup of toxic substances called ketones that make the blood too acidic. High ketone levels can be readily managed, but if they aren't detected and treated in time, a person can eventually slip into a fatal coma.
DKA often leads to people being newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. It can also occur in people already diagnosed with type 1 diabetes who have missed an insulin dose, have an infection, or have suffered a traumatic event or injury.
Although much less common, DKA can occasionally occur in people with type 2 diabetes under extreme physiologic stress.