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Ketones (also called ketone bodies) are substances produced by the body as it breaks down fats for energy, a process called ketosis.

Normally the body obtains the energy it needs from sugars (carbohydrates). A person may begin to break down fats and produce ketones because of:

  • Having too little insulin, which prevents the body from using sugar for energy, causing it to break down fat instead.
  • Fasting or starvation.
  • Prolonged vomiting or diarrhea.
  • A diet that is low in sugars and starches (carbohydrates).

Ketone testing can be done anytime using a urine test strip. If ketone levels are very high or if the person is dehydrated, ketones may begin to build up in the blood. High blood levels of ketones may cause fruity-smelling breath, loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, and fast, deep breathing. In severe cases, it may lead to coma and death. In a pregnant woman, even a moderate amount of ketones in her blood may harm the fetus.

Large amounts of ketones in the urine may signal diabetic ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition that is caused by very high blood sugar levels.

Last Revised: September 20, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Jennifer Hone, MD - Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism

Kidney failure (also called end-stage renal disease) occurs when kidney damage is so severe that a person needs dialysis or a kidney transplant to maintain life. Kidney failure often occurs after kidney damage has been present for 10 years or more.

Diabetes and high blood pressure are the most common causes of kidney failure in the United States.

Kidney failure can be measured by how well the kidneys are able to filter wastes from the blood. This is called glomerular filtration rate, or GFR. Kidney failure usually occurs when the GFR falls to below 15% of what is expected in a person with normal kidney function.

Kidney failure is treated with dialysis, which helps filter waste products from the blood when the kidneys are not working properly, or with kidney transplant.

Last Revised: September 15, 2011

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Mitchell H. Rosner, MD - Nephrology