What is Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

Posted by

We all drink for a reason. Sometimes, that reason is that it’s nighttime somewhere. Though drinking alcohol has its benefits, drinking out of moderation will cause negative effects on the body. It harms your liver, kidneys, brain, and blood. Your blood, in particular, will be affected and develop a disease called Alcoholic Ketoacidosis. The disease is basically increased acidity in your blood.

Causes of Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

The increase of acidity is caused by ketones. Ketones are byproducts when the body when it metabolizes fat or energy. This normally happens in the body but all the time, but drinking excess alcohol will trigger more of this process until blood acidity levels are too high.

Malnutrition can further cause acidity, which is present with a majority of severe alcoholics.

One of the issues with this disease is that it often happens unrecognized due to its somewhat benign symptoms. It’s only noticeable once it reaches a stage where it develops other illnesses.

Symptoms of  Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

The symptoms are somewhat benign and could be mistaken for ‘having too much to drink’, withdrawal or other conditions like stomach hyperacidity.

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration and increased thirst
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Confusion
  • Agitation or increased anxiety
  • Decreased level of alertness
  • Slow, sluggish movements
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty breathing, or rapid, labored breathing

Alcoholic Ketoacidosis will cause the following complications when left untreated:

  • Gastrointestinal Bleeding
  • Inflamed Pancreas
  • Liver Cirrhosis
  • Kidney diseases including kidney failure
  • Coma
  • Seizures

This conditions will be fatal to the person if it is not addressed quickly. If you know someone who is displaying a majority of these symptoms at a constant rate, seek medical help.

How Alcoholic Ketoacidosis is Diagnosed

The disease cannot be diagnosed with just one test. A physician will perform several tests along with the complete history of the patient’s alcoholism and health. Once the doctors suspect Alcoholic Ketoacidosis, they will perform more tests to rule out other conditions.

These are the tests they may perform:

  • Arterial Blood Gas Test. Used to measure the oxygen levels and acid to base balance in your blood


  • Blood Alcohol Test
  • Blood Glucose Test. To rule out diabetes
  • BUN or Blood Urea Nitrogen test and Creatinine tests. Used to check kidney function
  • Blood Chemistry Panel. Used to test metabolic levels
  • Urine Test for Ketones
  • Anion Gap Circulation. Used to measure sodium and potassium levels


Treatment for Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

When diagnosed early enough, before any of the more dire symptoms appear, treatment will be relatively quick. The treatment is usually done in an emergency room where they will administer IV fluids. Along with them are nutrients such as thiamine, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

In more severe cases, the patient will be admitted to the ICU for extended care. In some cases, the blood acidity levels cannot be regulated quickly without causing complications. In this case, the patient is going to be monitored carefully while their blood is slowly treated and regulated.


Limiting your alcohol intake is the only way to avoid alcoholic ketoacidosis. If you’re an alcoholic and find it hard to limit it, seek professional help. Long term issues require long term treatments so start early.

Krissie Twomey

Blogger at Rehab Near Me
Hi! I'm Krissie and like you my life has been impacted by addiction. Join me as we discuss drugs and alcohol and how it has impacted our lives.

Latest posts by Krissie Twomey (see all)