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High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) in
diabetes occurs when the sugar (glucose) level in the
blood rises above normal. For a person who has diabetes, high blood sugar may
be caused by not getting enough insulin, missing your diabetes medicine, eating too much food, skipping exercise, or being ill or
Unlike low blood sugar, high blood sugar usually develops
slowly over hours or days. Blood sugar levels well above your target range may
make you feel tired and thirsty. If your blood sugar continues to
rise, your kidneys will produce more urine and you can become
dehydrated. Signs of dehydration include being thirstier than usual and having darker urine than usual. If you become severely dehydrated, you can
go into a coma and possibly die. Over time, high blood sugar damages the eyes,
heart, kidneys, blood vessels, and nerves.
Unless you fail to
notice the symptoms, you usually have time to treat high blood sugar so that
you can prevent an emergency. Three things can help you prevent high blood
best way to prevent a high blood sugar emergency is to keep it from
Untreated infections (such
as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and skin infections) can increase your
risk for a high blood sugar emergency.
The best way to
prevent high blood sugar emergencies is to treat high blood sugar as soon as
you have symptoms or when your blood sugar is significantly above a target
range (200 mg/dL or higher).
If your blood sugar levels
are above your target range, drink extra liquids to replace the fluids lost
through your urine. Water and sugar-free drinks are best. Avoid caffeinated drinks,
alcohol, and soda pop and other liquids that contain a lot of sugar, such as fruit juice.
Other Works Consulted
Inzucchi SE, et al. (2012). Management of hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes: A patient-centered approach. Diabetes Care, 35(6): 1364–1379.
Kitabchi AE, et al. (2009). Hyperglycemic crises in adult patients with diabetes. Diabetes Care, 32(7): 1335–1343.
August 15, 2013
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
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