Ketones in Blood

Ketones in Blood: What You Need to Know

Ketones are a type of acid that occurs naturally in the body, most commonly in the blood. These are byproducts of the breakdown of fat when a person does not have enough insulin in their body to process sugar. They’re most commonly associated with diabetes, as well as other health conditions. Knowing how to test, treat, and manage ketones in the blood is an important part of diabetes management.

Why Are Ketones Important?

Ketones occur in the body when it breaks down fat for energy instead of carbohydrates, which it normally does. This happens when the body has no other source of energy, such as from sugar, and it releases ketones into the blood as a result. As a result, testing for ketones in the blood can provide important information about your health.

Ketones in the blood may indicate a number of health conditions, including type 1 diabetes, which occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make enough insulin. Other chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, renal failure, digestive and liver diseases, and certain infections, can also cause ketones to be present in the blood.

Types of Ketone Tests

There are a variety of ways to test for ketones in the blood. The most common method is the urine test, which typically involves dipping a stick into a sample of urine. Other methods include a blood test, which typically requires a sample of blood taken from a vein in the arm, and a breath test, which uses a device that measures a person's breath for evidence of ketones.


The cleaner and better hydrated the person being tested is the better the results will be. The person being tested is typically required to abstain from food and drink for 8 hours prior to the test.


The procedure for a ketone test will vary depending on the type of test being done. For a urine test, a sample of urine will be required, and the ketone test will be done using a dipstick similar to a pregnancy test. For a blood test, a blood sample taken from a vein in the arm is necessary. For a breath test, the patient will be required to blow into a device to create a sample.


Testing for ketones presents few risks. The most common risk is a slight discomfort related to the procedure done to take the sample, such as the painful prick of a needle for a blood test. For a breath test, some people may experience nausea.

When to Test for Ketones

It is important to test for ketones regularly when someone is living with type 1 diabetes, as ketones can be a sign of an impaired glucose metabolism, which can be dangerous. The American Diabetes Association recommends testing for ketones whenever blood or urine glucose levels are greater than 240 mg/dl, or if a person experiences symptoms of ketoacidosis like nausea, frequent urination, shortness of breath, or rapid breathing.

Types of Ketones

  • Acetoacetate: This is a ketone body that is produced when the liver breaks down fatty acids for energy.
  • Beta-hydroxybutyrate: This is a ketone body that is produced when there is not enough insulin in the body to store glucose.
  • Acetone: This ketone is produced as a byproduct of acetoacetate.

Ketones in Blood: What You Need to Know

Ketones in the blood can lead to a number of dangerous health complications, including ketoacidosis, which can be deadly. Therefore, testing for ketones regularly and managing them as needed is essential. Knowing how to test, treat, and manage ketones in the blood can help ensure that individuals living with diabetes and other health conditions stay healthy and safe.