How Undiagnosed Diabetes Killed Former Maryland Raven ‘Zeus’ Brown

Former Baltimore Raven Orlando “Zeus” Brown died from ketoacidosis, Maryland’s chief medical examiner announced Thursday. 40-year-old Brown was found dead in his Baltimore condo Sept. 23. According to medical examiner David Fowler, there were no indications that Brown knew he had diabetes, the underlying condition that sparked the deadly ketoacidosis. There were no insulin supplies in his home and his medical records didn’t indicate he sought treatment for diabetes.

What is diabetic ketoacidosis?

When the body doesn’t have sufficient insulin to break down glucose to use for energy, it will instead break down fat. The fat breakdown causes a build-up of acids called ketones in blood and urine. The liver reacts by producing more glucose, which the body cannot use without insulin.

If untreated, the toxic acids in the blood produced by ketoacidosis can lead to diabetic coma or death.

Diabetic ketoacidosis is usually associated with Type 1 diabetes but can occur with Type 2. The most common causes are interrupted insulin treatments, new onset of diabetes, and infection.

How is diagnosed ketoacidosis treated?

The primary treatment is introducing insulin to bring down the high glucose levels. Replacing fluids and electrolytes lost through urination and vomiting may also be necessary. This is typically done in a hospital.

What are the symptoms of ketoacidosis?

Common symptoms of ketoacidosis include:

* deep, rapid breathing

* dry skin

* thirst or dry mouth

* tiredness

* confusion or inability to maintain attention

* flushed face

* fruity odor to breath

* nausea and vomiting

* stomach pain

How can ketoacidosis be detected?

High blood glucose levels or high levels of ketones in urine are indicators of ketoacidosis.

How many people die from ketoacidosis each year?

The latest available data (2007) indicates that about 1700 people die from ketoacidosis each year in the United States, 45 of them from Maryland.

What to do and what not to do if you suspect you have ketoacidosis?

The American Diabetes Association says to contact a health care provider immediately or go to an emergency room if you suffer the symptoms of ketoacidosis. Whenever blood sugar is over 240 mg/l, they suggest testing urine for ketones. They also advise against exercising when high glucose levels are detected and ketones are present in urine.

Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, but Brown’s ketoacidosis death resulting from undiagnosed diabetes is unusual. According to Fowler, only five or six Marylanders die each year from undiagnosed diabetes.

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