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Difference between DKA and HHNK

Difference between DKA and HHNK

DKA and HHNK are two types of ketoacidosis, a serious complication that can occur in people with diabetes. Both DKA and HHNK occur when the body produces high levels of ketones, but they have different causes and symptoms. Knowing the difference between DKA and HHNK is important for getting the right treatment.

What is DKA?

DKA is short for diabetic ketoacidosis. It is a serious complication of diabetes that can happen when your blood sugar is too high and your body cannot produce enough insulin. DKA usually happens when someone with diabetes has an infection, a heart attack, or another stressful event. DKA can also occur if you miss or skip doses of your diabetes medicine, or if you have another illness that makes it hard for your body to use insulin. DKA can be life-threatening if it is not treated quickly.

Symptoms of DKA include, but are not limited to, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, trouble breathing, fruity-smelling breath, and confusion. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention immediately. DKA can be treated with intravenous fluids and insulin therapy. With prompt treatment, DKA can be resolved without any long-term complications.

What is HHNK?

HHNK stands for hyperglycemic, hyperemic, and nonketotic syndrome. It is a rare complication of diabetes that typically occurs in patients who have had the disease for many years. HHNK is characterized by high blood sugar levels, high blood pressure, and a lack of ketones in the blood. While the exact cause of HHNK is unknown, it is thought to be related to damage to the small blood vessels that supply the body with insulin. HHNK can be a serious condition, and patients with HHNK are at increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure. Treatment for HHNK typically includes aggressive management of blood sugar levels and blood pressure. In some cases, Insulin therapy may also be necessary. With proper treatment, patients with HHNK can often improve their symptoms and prevent serious complications.

Difference between DKA and HHNK

  • DKA and HHNK are both medical conditions that can occur when the body doesn’t have enough insulin. DKA is a more serious condition that can lead to diabetic coma, while HHNK is a less serious condition that usually only requires hospitalization. DKA occurs when the body produces too much ketone, a byproduct of fat metabolism. This can happen if there’s not enough insulin to properly metabolize glucose.
  • As a result, the body starts to break down fat for energy, which produces ketones. If ketone levels get too high, they can cause vomiting, dehydration, and eventually coma. HHNK, on the other hand, occurs when the body doesn’t have enough glucose to use for energy.
  • This can happen if there’s not enough insulin to properly metabolize glycogen. As a result, the body starts to break down protein for energy, which can lead to hospitalization. While DKA is a more serious condition, both DKA and HHNK require treatment with insulin in order to bring blood sugar levels back to normal.


While HHNK is less common, it can be more deadly if not treated early. It is important for healthcare providers and patients to be able to distinguish between the two conditions so that they can get the appropriate treatment. If you or someone you know has diabetes, make sure you are aware of the signs and symptoms of both DKA and HHNK so that you can get help quickly if needed.

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