Ketones are chemicals produced in the liver as a result of breakdown of fat.
The presence of insulin usually keeps this process at bay. A lack of insulin may result in unrestricted breakdown of fat leading to an excess of ketones which in turn causes the condition ‘ketoacidosis’. The ketones build up in the bloodstream and spill over into the urine causing ‘ketonuria’ which can be detected by simple tests.
The body burns fat when it can’t use glucose for energy. Without insulin we are unable to utilise glucose which then accumulates in the blood.
Anyone can produce ketones for various reasons. People who have type 1 diabetes are particularly at risk
You should test for ketones if you are unwell with any of the following conditions.
There are three methods of testing available in the UK.
1. KetostixR (Bayer Diagnostics)
Reagent strips available in a 50 strip pack.
2. AcetestR (Bayer Diagnostics)
Reagent tablets available in a 100 tab pack.
3. Ketur TestR (Roche Diagnostics)
Reagent strips – 50 strip pack.
There are devices which test for blood ketones and measure ketone concentrations in the blood. This is not strictly necessary as the test for urinary ketones is very sensitive and is capable of detecting tiny amounts of ketones in the urine. Measurement of ketone levels in the blood is expensive and does not give any adittional benefit.
Dip a test strip or tablet in a sample of urine. A test strip may simply be held in the urine stream. If the colour changes you have ketones in your urine.
If the test result shows a trace of ketones or small amount of ketones
If you continue to vomit and your urinary ketones are strongly positive contact your doctor or seek hospital admission as a matter of urgency.
Dr Nishan Wijenaike
West Suffolk Diabetes Service