Urine Ketone Testing - Make it Part of Your Diabetes Management Plan

Staying Healthy by Monitoring Urine Ketones

Urine ketone testing as part of diabetes management. Peter Dazele/Getty Images

Urine ketone testing should be a part of your overall diabetes management. Unfortunately, many people with type 1 diabetes do not check for ketones as often as they should. Some never do. A lot of people with type 1 do not understand the reason for ketone testing or what having ketones means. To help you better manage your diabetes and stay healthy, here are some answers to the most common questions about ketones and testing.

What Are Ketones?

Ketones are a toxic by-product of burning fat for energy. When you do not have enough insulin to help your body use the sugar in your bloodstream for energy, your body will look for an alternate source of fuel in body fat. When fat is broken down, ketones form in the blood. If you have ketones, it might lead to the development of ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition where your body is being poisoned by the high concentration of ketones in your blood. If not treated, ketoacidosis can lead to coma or even death.

How Do I Test for Urine Ketones?

As ketones build up in the blood, they eventually spill into the urine. A simple test can be performed at home using urine testing strips to detect the presence of ketones. When these test strips come in contact with urine they immediately change color to indicate the amount of ketones in the urine. Every person with type 1 should have a supply of urine test strips as part of their diabetes supplies and in their diabetes travel kit.

When Should I Test My Urine for Ketones?

You should test your urine for ketones if you:

  • have a glucose reading over 240 mg/dl. Check every four to six hours when your glucose is at that level.
  • are sick or have an infection, such as with a cold or the flue, check every four to six hours.
  • are vomiting or have other symptoms of ketoacidosis

    What Should I Do if the Ketone Test Is Positive?

    If you have moderate to significant amounts of ketones in your urine and your blood glucose is high, you should contact your healthcare provider right away. You want to keep from moving into ketoacidosis, which is considered a medical emergency that might require hospitalization. Drink plenty of water to help flush out the ketones from your system. Test your blood sugar every four to six hours and continue to check your ketones if your blood sugar is over 240 mg/dl.

    Call your doctor at once if your urine ketone level is high. That alone is enough reason to make the call, but it is further indicated if your urine ketones are high and your blood glucose level is high or your urine ketones are high and you have vomited more than once in four hours.

    Do not exercise if you have a positive urine ketone test and your blood glucose is high. Contact your health care provider.

    There are times when ketones may be present, but your glucose level is not high, such as when you are dieting.

    This is not considered a medical emergency, but you should test your ketones daily and consult with you health care provider if you continue to receive a positive ketone test result.

    How Do I Test for Ketones and Where Can I Get Urine Strips?

    There are several products Compare Prices that can be used to test for ketones and most are easy to use. You simply dip the end of the strip into fresh urine, remove and wait 15 seconds and compare the color of the strip to the color coding chart on the bottle. You can purchase ketone testing strips at most local and online pharmacies without a prescription.


    DKA (Ketoacidosis) & Ketones. American Diabetes Association. Edited March 18, 2015. Accessed 2/9/2016.

    Ketone Testing: What You Need to Know. Joslin Diabetes Center. Accessed 2/8/2016. http://www.joslin.org/managing_your_diabetes_688.asp

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