What are ketones?

Chemically known as ketone bodies, ketones are acids that form through the breakdown of fatty acids in the body. Elevated ketone levels are 1 of the major complications of diabetes and are often caused by a lack of insulin in the body. Therefore, high ketone levels are more commonly observed in patients with type I diabetes or advanced type II diabetes.

When insulin is insufficient, a lack of blood glucose supply to the cells occurs. As a result, the body starts to metabolize fat. Through hepatic metabolism, fatty acids are transformed into ketones, which are subsequently used as energy in the bloodstream. In individuals who are insulin-dependent (e.g. patients with type I diabetes), insufficient insulin may result in excessively high blood ketone levels. If left unattended, excessive ketones in the bloodstream may lead to ketoacidosis.

How do I test my ketone levels?

Ketone tests can be performed at home using a blood glucose meter, which measures both the levels of blood sugar and ketones. Urine tests can also be used to check the levels of ketones. However, urine-based results usually reflect the levels of ketones in the body several hours prior to the reading and may not be representative of the current ketone levels.

If you are pregnant while taking insulin, it is important to take ketone tests on a regular basis. Pregnant patients with gestational diabetes or type II diabetes should see a doctor if they experience any symptoms of ketoacidosis.


High ketone levels can be treated through the IV administration of insulin. Other treatment options include electrolyte replacement and IV fluid replacement. Early treatment of diabetic ketoacidosis may help to prevent hospitalization.

Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.