According to researchers at Chi-Mei Medical Center in Taiwan, diabetic ketoacidosis raises the risk of stroke. In January of 2017, the journal Diabetes Metabolism reported people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes who had a history of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) were found to have a 56 percent higher risk of stroke than those without a DKA history. The potential for ischemic stroke was 62 percent higher.
A stroke, or cerebrovascular accident (CVA), takes place when blood vessels in the brain are unable to deliver enough oxygen There are two kinds of CVA …
Clots or thrombi, that stick to vessel walls can cut off blood flow, causing ischemic stroke: a diabetic's blood vessels are often damaged. Cholesterol adheres to the inside walls of damaged blood vessels, forming plaque. Platelets, a type of blood cell, come into contact with plaque and form fibrin, the material blood clots are made up of. The resulting plaque can block blood flow.
The other kind of CVA is a hemorrhaging stroke. Aneurysms or outpouchings in the blood vessels can rupture and bleed into the surrounding brain tissue. When aneurysm ruptures, blood is spilled out into the brain tissue, damaging the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes can also occur when a vessel bursts from damage due to cholesterol plaques.
A Type 2 diabetic's blood vessels often became damaged from exposure to abnormally high levels of blood sugar. Cholesterol then adheres to damaged blood vessels, forming plaque. Platelets, a kind of blood cell, come into contact with plaque and form fibrin, which leads to blood clots. The resulting plaque can block blood flow to the brain. Parts of the brain become oxygen-starved and die.
Where does DKA come into all this? It is known to raise the risk of hemorrhagic or ischemic strokes in children. According to the above study, it is also a risk factor among adults. In DKA there is little insulin being used and the body must then burn fat instead of sugar. When fat is burned, molecules called ketone bodies are formed. Could ketone bodies damage the vessel walls?
In 2015 the journal Internal Medicine reported the case of a patient brought to the hospital with DKA. Shortly after arriving at the hospital he experienced abdominal pain. Several large vessels in the abdomen and leg were found to have thrombi blocking the blood flow. It has been suggested doctors consider the possibility of thrombosis when DKA and pain are present; no matter where the pain is felt in the body.