Ketones in Urine: What Do Ketone Levels in Urine Indicate?

Testing ketones in urine can help you stay informed about your condition, and help you know if it is time to seek immediate treatment before a medical emergency ensues.

ketones in urine

Ketones, which show up in blood and urine, can be measured through a urine test. If ketone levels are high, this may indicate the presence of a condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious complication of diabetes. Leaving it untreated can be deadly. Testing ketones in urine can help you stay informed about your condition, and help you know if it is time to seek immediate treatment before a medical emergency ensues.

Ketones in Urine

If you have diabetes, high levels of ketones in urine may have come from a number of causes related to insulin. For instance, taking an inadequate amount of insulin or missing a dose completely may cause high levels of ketones. Using an inefficient insulin pump or using spoiled insulin may be causes as well. Skipping meals may affect ketone levels as well.

All About Measuring Ketones in Urine

Who Should Measure Ketones in Urine? Measuring ketones in urine is usually done by people who are at high risk of developing ketones. People with diabetes measure their ketones to know about their insulin levels. If ketones show up in their urine, this may indicate that they have low insulin levels. People with other conditions can learn a lot from measuring the levels of their ketones in urine as well if you are at risk of developing ketones.

You should be monitoring your ketone levels if you have the following conditions:

  • you are fasting
  • you are on a low carbohydrate diet
  • you are pregnant
  • you do strenuous exercise
  • you had a heart attack
  • you had a stroke
  • you have a digestive disorder
  • you have a high fever
  • you have an eating disorder
  • you have chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • you have diabetes
  • you have hyperthyroidism
  • you have pneumonia
  • you have sepsis
  • you have symptoms of ketoacidosis
  • you struggle with alcohol abuse

Ketoacidosis is a complication of diabetes. People with diabetes have to monitor their ketones, as they are at high risk of ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis may be life-threatening. If you suspect that you are experiencing diabetic ketoacidosis based on your symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.

Symptoms of Ketoacidosis

The following are symptoms of ketoacidosis:

  • abdominal pain
  • breath with a fruity taste or smell
  • confusion
  • drowsiness or feeling sleepy
  • feeling unusually thirsty
  • flushed skin
  • nausea
  • trouble breathing
  • unconsciousness
  • vomiting

If you would benefit from testing the levels of ketones in urine, then you should test the levels every 4 to 6 hours. The frequency of testing may vary depending on the healthcare provider and the person who would need testing.

You should test the number of ketones in urine if you have the following conditions:

  • blood sugar above 250 mg/dl
  • confusion
  • flu
  • injury or infection
  • nausea
  • severe fatigue
  • symptoms of ketoacidosis are present
  • an unexplained rise in blood sugar
  • vomiting

If you are pregnant, you should be monitoring your ketones in urine every morning.

Ketones in Urine: How the Testing Goes

You can test the levels of ketones in urine by taking a test in a laboratory or at home.

Laboratory Tests

In a laboratory test for ketones in urine, you may be asked to provide a urine sample in a cup, which will be analyzed.

Over the Counter Tests

You may find ketone test kits in drug stores, which are available over the counter. You do not need a prescription. A spot test is a urine test for ketones where test strips are dipped into urine samples. The test should come with a color chart that will indicate what the normal levels of ketones in urine are.

Over the counter, ketone test kits are generally safe to use. There are no risks to taking the test. However, as there are many over the counter urine tests available, consulting your doctor or healthcare provider may help you choose the most appropriate test kit for you.

Testing your ketone levels at home is easy and the test kits can provide accurate results. However, you would have to make sure that you strictly follow all the instructions. Before purchasing a test kit, you must make sure that the test kit has not yet expired.

Pros and Cons of Ketone Tests

Testing the levels of ketones in urine at home may be more convenient for you, but having a laboratory process the test for you may give you better results. Laboratory results explained by your doctor or healthcare provider can help you better understand your specific situation. There are different ranges of normal levels of ketones in urine. These may differ, depending on an individual’s age, gender, health history, among many other factors. While over the counter test kits may give you easy ballpark estimates, laboratory tests may be more tailored to you and your needs.

Reading the Results from Testing Ketones in Urine

What results are normal? Categorizing ranges of results may depend on the laboratory that processes your urine if you took a urine test in a laboratory. For both kinds of tests, whether done in a laboratory or at home, ranges of results may differ depending on the person’s individual characteristics.

These ranges are only given general standards which may help somebody who monitors his ketone levels in urine have a general ballpark in mind. These ranges are not supposed to be taken as absolute standards.

Here are the ranges for the results from testing ketone levels in urine:

  • Small: 20 mg/dl
  • Moderate: 30 to 40 mg/dl
  • Large: 80 mg/dl and above

A small number of ketones in urine may be normal. However, it would be wise to consult your doctor or medical professional regarding what the results mean when interpreted for your particular context.

If you have a large number of ketones in urine, seek medical attention. Do not exercise if your ketone levels are high. If you have diabetes, a high amount of ketones in urine may be a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis. You may not be getting the amount of insulin that you need.

ketones in urine

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