Ketones are a vital indicator in your diabetes management, and regular testing might be the best way to make sure it’s under control. If your body is insulin deficient your ketone levels will start to increase, and if they get too high you will be at risk of diabetic ketoacidosis, or DKA. If not treated, DKA can pose a danger to organs, induce coma and eventually cause death.
You might need to test for ketones if you are a person with Type 1, and it might also be recommended for people with advanced Type 2 diabetes and other types of insulin-dependent diabetes. Testing can be carried out at home and kits are available on NHS prescription.
What is a ketone testing kit?
The most accurate method of ketone testing is a meter that measures the concentration of ketones in your blood. There are a few blood glucose meters available on the NHS that can do this, as well as measuring blood glucose levels, so it’s a handy two-for-one solution. Most standard meters have a digital readout, a battery power source and an internal memory. Many new meters can link to an app on your smartphone to receive and store your data and may come with a USB rechargeable battery unit.
Ketone levels can also be measured with a urine test, but this is less accurate since it shows ketone levels only after it has been excreted by the kidneys (which takes several hours).
When should I test my ketone levels?
If you suffer from any form of insulin-dependent diabetes you should take a ketone test if you are feeling ill and displaying any DKA symptoms. You should also test if you see that your blood sugar levels have risen to more than 15 mmol/L.
How to do the ketone test
The test for ketones is conducted in much the same way as a blood glucose test, and may well use the same test meter, making sure a different type of test strip is inserted.
- Insert a blood ketone test strip into the meter
- Use a lancet to prick your finger
- Gently touch the absorbent hole of the test strip to the blood drop so itis drawn in to completely fill the confirmation window
- Wait for the readout on the meter screen
- Ensure that the used test strip and lancet are safely disposed of.
If you’re doing a ketone urine test, you’ll need a tub of urine sticks that you insert into your urine flow, or into collected urine. After waiting for the time prescribed by the manufacturer, the colour on the urine stick should be compared to the tub’s colour chart to get a ketone measurement.
What results am I looking for?
Normal ketone levels are less than 0.6 mmol/L.
Anything between 0.6 and 1.5 mmol/L shows an excess that should be monitored. Drink some water, wait for 2-4 hours and check again to see if the levels have gone down.
If you get a reading of 1.6 to 2.9 mmol/L, this is definitely too high and could indicate potential DKA. Consult your doctor if these levels are occurring frequently.
Seek immediate medical assistance if you get ketone results of 3.0 mmol/L or more.