How would you describe DKA or very high blood sugar symptoms?

Ok, I was in outpatient surgery the other day having my last stem cell trial implant removed. And while waiting for things to get rolling, we were chatting about high blood sugars, patients with DKA and how many people with diabetes hate the high blood sugars and can tell when it is getting too high. So one of the doctors who is also a type 1 said he has heard it many times from people who hate the highs and who can tell when they are happening. So one of the other doctors asked what I felt like. How did I know? I was hard pressed to put it into words. It’s just that horrible feeling. The little wool sweaters on my teeth. The dry mouth. The nausea. The shortness of breath. The feeling like I’ve been run over by a semi truck. The wish and hope someone could put me out of my misery. How is that for a description? It’s so funny how I’ve never really had to describe it before but I sure know I never want to feel like that ever!

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I just got over a nasty intestinal bug that caused vomiting. Sugars were reading high on my meter and I just kept the basal doubled and jamming boluses. I was so out of it I didn’t think to makes sure the pump was delivering until a T1 friend called and made the suggestion. The pump wasn’t delivering because the needle was not in my skin.

Now better, I think about what caused what. I couldn’t hold even water without violent vomiting. I think that was DKA. I felt like I was going to pass out or fall down when I walked. I think that was DKA. I had a headache up the high part of my spine into the base of my skull. Since I’ve never had that before, I think that was also DKA.

Yuck. You are so right. It’s horrible.

Thank God for great medical caregivers. A Diabetes Educator walked me through the worst of it when I pleaded not to go to the hospital. Now that’s a true gem.


Dry, Very Thirsty, Parched
Swaying The world was tilting every which way and dizzying
Nausiating Nothing stayed down.
Blurry vision
HUGE headache Did I emphasize Huge big enough?
Non coherent I couldn’t make my phone work to call for help and couldn’t think clearly.
Scary I didn’t know what was going on.

DKA with bg of 1141 Blessed to be alive.

I feel like I have battery acid coursing through my veins, burning me from the inside out.

Ever since my diagnosis 51 years ago, I know when my blood sugars are high if I feel just fine, energetic, awake, and healthy. If they are normal or low, I feel profoundly tired. This would suggest that my body has adjusted to higher levels of blood sugar, but since my A1c has been in the 4 range for the last decade, that can’t be the explanation.

I would like to answer this question, but I can’t. I have what might as well be called hyperglycemia unawareness for lack of a better name. I always feel a low coming on, but a high? Nope. Zip, zero, nada. I have been in the high 400s without feeling a thing. Without my meter, I would never know I was high until it was too late, or nearly.

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I’m in this same boat if a high is caused by something like a missed boils. Before getting my CGM, I wouldn’t realize I was high for hours. With my CGM, I often only know because of the alert.

However, if a high is caused by interrupted insulin delivery, it feels way worse than a “normal” high and I definitely feel it. Two or three hours without insulin is enough to raise ketones significantly and at that point I feel thirsty, nauseated, and a bit lightheaded. It’s not DKA, but it’s h aged down that path and feels horrible.

My 105 lb body feels like it weighs 150! The internal creepy crawlers, lack of breath, vision, and strength. add nausea, agitation, anger, etc… i think its what Hell must be like.

Wishing everyone to be well May we all find peace in our BG fluctuations and never have to visit DKA again!

Yeah I don’t feel the highs or the lows… my poor fingers…plus with Gastroparesis the feeling of dry mouth, nausea etc is with me 24/7… I DO sometimes shake though, but must be quite low … around 40/45. I test before I drive religiously and am looking forward to the Freestyle Libre so I just have to read a sensor

It makes me slow, tired and lethargic but cannot sleep. As soon as I get that feeling I’ll give a small bolus to get things started, then test and see how much more I need. Happened last Sat night as we tried a new restaurant, gave myself a good amount of insulin and used a temp basil for a couple hours. Was not that high when we got home, 179, bolused for that and thought I had it licked but could not get to sleep for some reason felt like I was going higher. Got up and check about an 1.5 hrs later and I was about 360, realized I was not used to French cooking, high fat content, some fried stuff, took me until 2am till I got it on a downward trend and it was still at 200 in morning (was afraid I was stacking so much insulin a let up and just went to bed).

Everyone’s descriptions are great and all very different. But we all agree, DKA is the worst thing out there.
I have been mentally scarred from that initial coma diagnosis way back when. And here I am 47 years later with only 1other time going DKA. And it brought back all those horrible memories. One person also talked about the wooly sweater feeling your teeth/mouth get. So perfect.
I don’t feel the lows, lost that ability a long time ago which is why I love my CGM. But the highs, wow. I can always tell when they start creeping into the high 200’s.
So thanks everyone for helping me with this one. The descriptions are great! Keep them coming. This way, i’ll Have an answer the next time i’m asked.

Being Type 1 for 41 years, I have felt many symptoms through out the years. I have learned to pay attention to my body and have discovered that the symptoms change depending on the level of the sugar in my blood. Most repeatable signs that my sugar is high is my nose gets cold, along with hands and feet. I have thought about this and makes sense to me that because there is so much sugar in my blood that it is thick and cannot flow leaving the extremities to loose circulation. I also can tell when I breath in through my nose, that there is a pressure, almost like a burning feeling. More symptoms include moodiness, craving of food and sometimes coffee (yes weird), the taste of iron, blurred vision and thirst.
When I was a kid, my sugars were high all the time causing a lot of throwing up and eventually a coma. The sugar was so high in my blood for so long that this is what it leads to…a diabetic coma.
I must also say that some symptoms of high sugar and low sugar are the same. So it is best that when you feel a certain way, you should test and make note of the symptoms. This will help you stay in tune with your body and help in the long run. It helped for me.

I am one of the what seems to be rare people that can go into DKA and have normal BG levels.
So, as for high BG, I always know my numbers are heading up by my feet burning. Followed by the thirst, etc.
For DKA though, I get to feel it without the high BG symptoms. This mainly happens when I am eating VERY low carbs.
Best way I can describe it is that I am being poisoned. It feels like my blood is on fire!
I was bitten by a rattlesnake many years ago, and this is the closest comparison I can come up with.

My first episode of DKA was very much like others have described, dry mouth, ongoing vomiting, crushing tiredness. Finally the stomach pain and nausea passed and I started panting and getting almost giddy. That’s when my family called the ambulance. Good thing too.

Hammer, like you I can go DKA with BG under 200. Mostly because I have cyclic vomiting syndrome and my blood electrolytes get out of whack and I become severely dehydrated very quickly. So even controlling BG isn’t good enough sometimes, the ketones take over.

I think any time a Type 1 has vomiting they should be concerned about DKA. And when you have anything like you, I would automatically expect it!

When I did it, I had a BG that was around 120. I wasn’t vomiting at all. But I also wasn’t as hydrated as I should have been. I wasn’t losing anything from being sick.
I think, and so does my Endo, that my ketosis kind of took on a life of it’s own, kind of like a runaway train.
I had to start eating carbs so I could take insulin. It was a struggle to eat enough carbs to take enough insulin to get my body back out of DKA.

And that is why I don’t do a ketosis diet anymore. Which is a shame, because it really worked for me. It was just too dangerous.

After this happened, I recognized the signs of DKA, and realized that I had been ‘at the brink’ a number of times before this incident.

Years ago I felt like my whole body was having a heart attack