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As a Nurse, it’s crucial to understand the potential complications that can arise from diabetes and how to manage them effectively. This knowledge is vital for nurses, as we play a vital role in patient education and managing these complications (Diabetes Australia, 2020).
While diabetes can be managed with proper care, uncontrolled blood sugar levels can lead to various complications, including the life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) (Mayo Clinic, 2021).
In this blog post, we will delve into the risks associated with diabetes, explore DKA as a serious complication, and discuss the available treatment options.
This blog post is a continuation of our series on diabetes. You can read the previous post, “Understanding Diabetes: A Quick Nurses Guide to Diabetes in Australia,” HERE.
Understanding The Risks: Why People With Diabetes Are Vulnerable
Diabetes can increase the risk of various health complications due to the impact of consistently high blood sugar levels on the body (Diabetes Australia, 2020).
These complications can affect multiple organ systems, including the eyes, kidneys, nerves, heart, and blood vessels (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020).
Some of the major risk factors include:
- Poorly controlled blood sugar levels: Consistently high blood sugar can damage blood vessels and nerves, leading to various complications (Diabetes Australia, 2020).
- High blood pressure: This can further exacerbate the damage caused by diabetes on blood vessels and organs (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020).
- High cholesterol: Elevated cholesterol levels can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020).
- Smoking: Smoking can worsen the effects of diabetes on the blood vessels, increasing the risk of complications (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2020).
A Closer Look At Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA)
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a severe complication of diabetes that occurs when blood sugar levels are consistently high (Mayo Clinic, 2021).
While it is more common in people with type 1 diabetes, it can also occur in those with type 2 diabetes.
DKA is a medical emergency that can lead to coma or even death if left untreated (Mayo Clinic, 2021).
When the body cannot use glucose for energy due to a lack of insulin, it starts to break down fat for fuel.
This process produces ketones, acidic byproducts that can build up in the blood, leading to ketoacidosis (Mayo Clinic, 2021).
Symptoms of DKA include excessive thirst, frequent urination, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, rapid breathing, and confusion (Mayo Clinic, 2021).
Treatment Strategies For DKA:
- Hospitalisation: DKA is a medical emergency that typically requires hospitalisation for close monitoring and treatment (Mayo Clinic, 2021).
- Insulin administration: Insulin is administered to lower blood sugar levels and suppress the production of ketones (American Diabetes Association, 2021).
- Fluid replacement: Intravenous fluids are given to replenish fluids lost through frequent urination and to help dilute the excess sugar in the blood (American Diabetes Association, 2021).
- Electrolyte replacement: Electrolytes, such as potassium, sodium, and chloride, are essential for proper nerve and muscle function. They may be administered intravenously to correct imbalances caused by DKA (American Diabetes Association, 2021).
- Monitoring: Continuous monitoring of blood sugar and ketone levels is crucial for adjusting treatment as needed (American Diabetes Association, 2021).
As a nurse, understanding the risks and complications associated with diabetes, such as DKA, is essential for providing comprehensive patient care (Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, 2020). By being aware of the warning signs and the necessary treatment strategies, you can help patients manage their diabetes effectively and prevent the onset of life-threatening complications (Diabetes Australia, 2020).
Ongoing education on diabetes and its complications is vital for staying informed and providing optimal care to your patients (Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, 2020).
I encourage you to continue learning about diabetes and its complications and to apply this knowledge in your practice.
Stay tuned for our upcoming blog posts in this series, where we will delve deeper into managing diabetes and its complications.
American Diabetes Association. (2021). Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2021. Diabetes Care, 44(Supplement 1), S1-S232. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc21-Sint
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2020). Diabetes. Retrieved from https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/diabetes/diabetes
Diabetes Australia. (2020). Diabetes complications. Retrieved from https://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/about-diabetes/diabetes-complications/
Mayo Clinic. (2021). Diabetic ketoacidosis. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetic-ketoacidosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20371551
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. (2020). General practice management of type 2 diabetes. Retrieved from https://www.racgp.org.au/clinical-resources/clinical-guidelines/key-racgp-guidelines/view-all-racgp-guidelines/management-of-type-2-diabetes