There are a few different negative health effects that can arise from substance abuse addiction, and one common example that’s specific to the use of alcohol is alcoholic ketoacidosis. What is this condition, and why are those who abuse alcohol on a regular basis at a higher risk for it?

At Moonlight Mountain Recovery, we’re proud to offer caring alcohol addiction recovery programs around Boise, Oregon and Washington, including assistance with many of the related physical issues that may arise from alcohol abuse. Here’s a primer on alcoholic ketoacidosis – what it is, how it can be spotted, why it’s a problem, and more.

Defining Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

For those unfamiliar with it, alcoholic ketoacidosis is a condition that can occur in heavy drinkers due to the breakdown of fats and proteins caused by excessive alcohol consumption. This process produces acidic compounds called ketones, which can become dangerously high over time and lead to complications like nausea, vomiting, exhaustion, fever, confusion and even coma.

Now, some readers may already be aware that ketoacidosis can occur for other reasons beyond alcohol abuse. Those with type 1 diabetes, for instance, can become susceptible to the condition due to a lack of insulin in the body. However, there are key differences between diabetic ketoacidosis and alcoholic ketoacidosis that set them apart.

For one, alcoholic ketoacidosis is directly associated with malnutrition brought on by excessive drinking and the resulting lack of essential vitamins and minerals in the body. It also generally takes a much shorter period of time for an individual to become symptomatic from alcoholic ketoacidosis than from diabetic ketoacidosis. In some cases, it can take as little as 24 hours of heavy drinking before noticeable symptoms appear.

Risk Factors

There are several risk factors to consider when discussing alcoholic ketoacidosis. Those who drink heavily on a regular basis and suffer from malnutrition due to a lack of essential vitamins and minerals are most at risk for developing this condition. Individuals with underlying medical conditions such as liver or kidney disease, or those with an impaired immune system, may also be more susceptible to the effects of alcoholic ketoacidosis.

Additionally, binge drinking – typically defined as four or more drinks in two hours – can put a person at risk for this condition. Oftentimes, those who are alcohol-dependent find that their body’s natural metabolic processes become impaired due to the decreased intake of food and vitamins over time. This can lead to an imbalance of electrolytes and other compounds in the body, which can lead to ketoacidosis.

Symptoms of Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

While these will vary in most cases based on several different factors, the largest of which is simply how much alcohol has been consumed, some of the common signs and symptoms of alcoholic ketoacidosis include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dehydration
  • Abdominal pain
  • Low blood sugar
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Confusion or impaired mental state

Some of these symptoms can be extreme and even life-threatening, so it’s important to seek medical help if you believe that you or someone around you is suffering from alcoholic ketoacidosis.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

In cases of suspected alcoholic ketoacidosis, a doctor will usually order an array of tests to determine the cause. These may include blood chemistry tests to measure the levels of electrolytes and glucose in the body, as well as urine tests to check for ketones.

If the condition is diagnosed, treatment will typically involve a hospital stay so that more intensive monitoring can occur. This also gives doctors an opportunity to provide intravenous fluids to help correct dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, and administer insulin if needed to lower the levels of ketones in the body.

There may be some cases where alcohol withdrawal impacts the individual’s ability to process or metabolize vitamins and minerals, so nutritional supplementation may be prescribed as well.

Alcohol Addiction and Avoiding Alcoholic Ketoacidosis

The simplest way to avoid alcoholic ketoacidosis is simply to avoid alcohol altogether. However, for those who have already developed an addiction to alcohol, understanding the risks associated with drinking heavily and seeking professional help is key.

At Moonlight Mountain Recovery, we offer custom-tailored treatment programs that are designed to help those individuals who suffer from alcoholism find hope and healing in a safe and caring environment. Our experienced staff can help each individual identify their triggers for addiction and develop healthy coping strategies and habits that will equip them to live a life of sobriety.

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcoholism, please don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Our recovery programs are designed to provide the support needed for every individual who is committed to getting their life back on track. Contact us today if you have any questions about our addiction recovery programs throughout Boise, Washington or Oregon.