What is high blood sugar in diabetes?

What are the symptoms of high blood sugar?

High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) most often occurs in people who have diabetes that isn't well controlled. The symptoms of high blood sugar can be mild, moderate, or severe.

Young children are not able to recognize symptoms of high blood sugar. Parents need to do a home blood sugar test on their child whenever they suspect high blood sugar.

Mild high blood sugar

You may have mild symptoms if your blood sugar levels are consistently higher than your target range. Some people may not notice any symptoms when their blood sugar level is in this range.

The main symptoms of mild high blood sugar are:

  • Increased thirst.
  • Increased urination.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fatigue.

Moderate to severe high blood sugar

You may have moderate to severe symptoms if your blood sugar levels are consistently high. These symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision.
  • Extreme thirst.
  • Lightheadedness.
  • Flushed, hot, dry skin.
  • Restlessness, drowsiness, or difficulty waking up.

People with type 1 diabetes and some people with type 2 diabetes produce little or no insulin. These people may also have:

  • Rapid, deep breathing.
  • A fast heart rate and a weak pulse.
  • A strong, fruity breath odor.
  • Loss of appetite, belly pain, and/or vomiting.

If your blood sugar levels continue to rise, you may:

  • Become confused and sluggish.
  • Pass out (lose consciousness) if your blood sugar levels are very high.

How is high blood sugar treated?

You can take steps to lower your blood sugar level if you understand what makes it get higher. Your doctor may want you to learn how to test your blood sugar level at home. Then you can see how illness, stress, or different kinds of food or medicine raise or lower your blood sugar level.

Other tests may be needed to see if you have diabetes.

How can you prevent high blood sugar?

  • Watch your weight. If you're overweight, losing just a small amount of weight may help. Reducing fat around your waist is most important.
  • Limit the amount of calories, sweets, and unhealthy fat you eat. Ask your doctor if a dietitian can help you. A registered dietitian can help you create meal plans that fit your lifestyle.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days of the week. Exercise helps control your blood sugar. It also helps you maintain a healthy weight. Walking is a good choice. You also may want to do other activities, such as running, swimming, cycling, or playing tennis or team sports.
  • If your doctor prescribed medicines, take them exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.

How is frequent high blood sugar diagnosed when you have diabetes?

If your blood sugar is often higher than your target range, your doctor may do tests to check your blood sugar and ketones. If you take diabetes medicine, the doctor may ask how often you take it. You may be asked about your eating, activity, and other medicines you take that could affect blood sugar.

Treating high blood sugar

Your doctor will give you goals for your blood sugar and recommend ways to treat high blood sugar. Here are some general guidelines for treating it.

  • Treat mild to moderate high blood sugar.

    Follow these steps if your blood sugar is over the target range set by your doctor. For example, that might be over 200 mg/dL for two or more readings a few hours apart.

    • If you missed your usual dose of diabetes medicine, take the missed dose.
    • If your doctor prescribed a dose of fast-acting insulin based on the blood sugar level (sliding scale), give the appropriate dose. If not, call your doctor for advice.
    • Test for ketones, if your doctor has advised you to do so. Call your doctor if the results show a moderate-to-large amount of ketones.
    • Wait 30 minutes after giving the extra insulin or the missed medicine. Then check your blood sugar again.
    • Drink extra liquids to replace the fluids lost through the urine. Water and sugar-free drinks are best.
  • Know when to take action.
    • If symptoms of high blood sugar become more noticeable or if your blood sugar level continues to rise, call your doctor.
    • If you start to feel drowsy or disoriented or if your blood sugar continues to rise (for example, above 350 mg/dL), call 911 or other emergency services immediately. It's best to have someone with you if your blood sugar is this high so that the person can call for you.
  • Recheck extremely high blood sugar.

    Follow these steps if your blood sugar is extremely high—for example, over 600 mg/dL. Some blood sugar meters read only levels up to about 400 mg/dL.

    • Wash and dry the finger carefully before checking again.
    • If the meter reads high, test the accuracy of the meter, and then recheck the blood sugar.
    • If the meter reads high again, call the doctor for advice or seek emergency care.

What causes high blood sugar?

Sugar (glucose) can build up in your blood if you:

  • Have insulin resistance.
  • Don't take enough insulin or miss a dose of your diabetes medicine.
  • Take certain medicines, such as steroids.

What is high blood sugar?

Your body turns the food you eat into glucose (sugar), which it uses for energy. But if your body isn't able to use the sugar right away, it can build up in your blood and lead to high blood sugar.

When the amount of sugar in your blood stays too high for too much of the time, you may have diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that can cause serious health problems.

The good news is that lifestyle changes may help you get your blood sugar back to normal and avoid or delay diabetes.

What should you do after an episode of high blood sugar?

After your blood sugar level has returned to a target range:

  • Continue medicine as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Check blood sugar levels as directed.
  • Report the episode to your doctor.
  • Drink extra liquids to replace the fluids lost through urine.
    • Water and sugar-free drinks are best.
    • Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol. Also avoid regular soda pop, fruit juice, and other liquids that contain a lot of sugar.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.