Alcoholic ketoacidosis

Alternative names 
Ketoacidosis - alcoholic

Alcoholic ketoacidosis is an accumulation of ketones (a type of acid) in the blood, caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors
This disorder can be a complication of alcohol use, especially excessive alcohol use.


  • Fatigue  
  • low, sluggish, lethargic movement  
  • Breathing difficulty leading, when untreated, to an abnormal breathing pattern  
  • Irregular deep, rapid breathing (Kussmaul’s)  
  • Loss of appetite  
  • Nausea and vomiting  
  • Abdominal pain  
  • Symptoms of dehydration, such as dizziness and light headedness  
  • Confusion  
  • Agitation  
  • Changes in mental activity leading to loss of consciousness

Signs and tests

  • Blood and urine tests for excess acids, or ketones, in the body  
  • Blood chemistry tests  
  • Tests to quantify the amount of alcohol in the blood

Treatment in the hospital with intravenous fluids and frequent blood draws may be necessary to reverse the acidosis. Occasionally patients require intensive care unit stays.

Expectations (prognosis)
Prompt medical attention improves the overall prognosis of this condition.

This can be a life-threatening disorder.

Calling your health care provider
If you, a family member, or a friend have symptoms of alcoholic ketoacidosis, seek medical attention from an emergency department.

Limit alcohol consumption to moderate levels.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 2, 2012
by Arthur A. Poghosian, M.D.

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