Ketoacidosis - alcoholic; Alcohol use - alcoholic ketoacidosis
Alcoholic ketoacidosis is the buildup of ketones in the blood due to alcohol use. Ketones are a type of acid that form when the body breaks down fat for energy.
Alcoholic ketoacidosis is caused by very heavy alcohol use. It most often occurs in a malnourished person who drinks large amounts of alcohol every day.
Exams and Tests
Tests may include:
- Arterial blood gases (measures the acid/base balance and oxygen level in blood)
- Blood alcohol level
- Blood chemistries and liver function tests
- CBC (complete blood count), measures red and white blood cells, and platelets, which help blood to clot
- Prothrombin time (PT), measures blood clotting, often abnormal from liver disease
- Toxicology study (checking for other poisons in your body)
- Urine ketones
Treatment may involve fluids (salt and sugar solution) given through a vein. You may need to have frequent blood tests. You may get vitamin supplements to treat malnutrition caused by excessive alcohol use.
People with this condition are usually admitted to the hospital, often to the intensive care unit (ICU). Alcohol use is stopped to help recovery. Medicines may be given to prevent alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
Prompt medical attention improves the overall outlook. How severe the alcohol use is, and the presence of liver disease or other problems, may also affect the outlook.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
If you or someone else has symptoms of alcoholic ketoacidosis, seek emergency medical help.
Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink will help prevent this condition.
Finnell JT. Alcohol-related disease. In: Walls RM, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 137.
O'Connor PG. Alcohol use disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 30.
Last reviewed on: 6/12/2023
Reviewed by: Jacob Berman, MD, MPH, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.