Type 2 Diabetes: High Blood Sugar (Hyperglycemia)

Diabetes management: High blood sugar and its symptoms

What is high blood sugar?

  • High blood sugar, technically known as hyperglycemia, can occur when blood glucose stays too high -- typically over 180 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) -- for too long.
  • High blood sugar is an indication that the body doesn't have enough insulin. It can happen if someone with diabetes skips doses of diabetes medications, eats too much, or doesn't get enough exercise.
  • Sometimes the medications taken for other ailments cause high blood sugar. In addition, an infection, illness, injury, surgery, or stress can also make blood glucose soar to harmful heights.

What are the symptoms of high blood sugar?

  • Excessive thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Increased urination
  • Blurry vision
  • Nausea
  • More frequent infections
  • Slow-healing cuts and sores
  • Unexplained weight loss

Diabetes management: Treating and preventing high blood sugar

How to treat high blood sugar

  • Make sure that the person you're caring for drinks plenty of water to avoid dehydration and the potential for high blood sugar to spiral out of control.
  • If blood glucose is above 250 mg/dL, a person with diabetes should test his urine for ketones, acids that can build up in his body and cause potentially life-threatening problems. Ketone test strips are available over the counter at pharmacies.
  • If blood glucose readings are routinely above target range, the person in your care may consider taking pills or injecting insulin. If he already does, he may need to have the dose increased. Discuss these concerns with his main diabetes care provider.

How to prevent high blood sugar

  • Help the person figure out what foods tend to trigger a high blood sugar reaction so he can avoid them or compensate by adjusting his medications or becoming more active.
  • Check the size of his portions to make sure he isn't eating too much. Or enlist the aid of a certified diabetes educator or registered dietitian to see whether too much food is the cause of his high blood sugar.
  • Reassess his activity plan with him and his main diabetes care provider to determine whether lack of exercise, or the timing of it, may be to blame.
  • Make sure he isn't skipping prescribed medication doses. If he uses insulin, check to see that it's not spoiled and that he's taking the correct amount.
  • Clean his blood glucose meter and check to ensure it's working properly. Make sure his testing strips haven't expired and that they're calibrated for his device. Review his testing techniques with his care provider to ensure he's getting accurate readings.
  • If his blood glucose is frequently too high or he often experiences symptoms of high blood sugar, plan to speak with him and his doctor together. He may need a change in his diabetes medicines, meal plan, or other aspect of his self-care regimen.

Sarah Henry

Sarah Henry has covered health stories for most of her more than two decades as a writer, from her ten-year stint at the award-winning Center for Investigative Reporting to her staff writer position with Hippocrates magazine to her most recent Web work for online sites, including WebMD, Babycenter. See full bio