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A ketone test checks for ketones in your blood or urine. Ketones are substances that are made when the body breaks down fat for energy. Normally, your body gets the energy it needs from carbohydrate in your diet. But stored fat is broken down and ketones are made if your diet does not contain enough carbohydrate to supply the body with sugar (glucose) for energy or if your body can't use blood sugar (glucose) properly.
Ketones can be tested in a laboratory. Or you can test for ketones anywhere you may be by using home blood or urine tests.
A blood test analyzed by a laboratory is the most accurate method of measuring ketones. It is recommended for all people with diabetes whenever symptoms of illness are present, such as nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain. These symptoms often happen with high blood sugar and may mean you have diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially life-threatening condition.
Home blood or urine ketone tests:
No special preparation is needed before having this test.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form( What is a PDF document? ).
The health professional taking a sample of your blood will:
Some home blood sugar meters can also measure blood ketones. You use the same finger-prick method that you use to measure blood sugar.
The blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. An elastic band is wrapped around your upper arm. It may feel tight. You may feel nothing at all from the needle, or you may feel a quick sting or pinch.
Your finger may feel sore after pricking it for a drop of blood for the test.
There is normally no discomfort involved with collecting a urine sample.
There is very little risk of a problem from having blood drawn from a vein.
There is very little risk of complications from testing your blood for ketones with a home blood sugar meter.
There are no risks associated with collecting a urine sample.
A ketone test checks for substances made when the body breaks down fat for energy (ketones).
There are no ketones in your blood or urine.
Ketones are present in your blood or urine.
Home blood sugar meters that also test for ketones display results on the meter's screen.
In people who have diabetes, blood ketones are expected to be lower than 0.6 mmol/L.
Ketones are present in the urine if:
You usually compare the color of the test strip or urine to a chart to find out if ketones are present.
You may have ketones if you:
The level of ketones, and not just the presence of ketones, may be important to your doctor as well. Many conditions can change ketone levels. Fasting usually causes only mild increases in the level. But ketone levels in diabetic ketoacidosis are much higher. Your doctor will discuss any significant abnormal results with you in relation to your symptoms and past health.
Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:
Your doctor may recommend you test for ketones if you have diabetes and you have any of the following conditions:
Other Works Consulted
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2013). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 6th ed. St. Louis: Saunders.
Fischbach FT, Dunning MB III, eds. (2009). Manual of Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests, 8th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Current as ofJuly 25, 2018
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito, MD - Family MedicineMatthew I. Kim, MD - Endocrinology, Diabetes and MetabolismDavid C. W. Lau, MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology
Current as of:
July 25, 2018
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Matthew I. Kim, MD - Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism & David C. W. Lau, MD, PhD, FRCPC - Endocrinology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
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