Recognizing the Signs of High Blood Sugar

Diabetes Care|Oct.23, 2018


Ignorance may be bliss, but not when it comes to your health. Many of us ignore what our bodies are subtly telling us only to be surprised during routine health check-ups when the diagnosis reads diabetes!

You may diligently track your blood sugar and note when it is low, but how often do you check yourself for signs of high blood sugar, also called hyperglycaemia? Do you know its consequences? Read on to know more about hyperglycaemia and why it happens, and how to lower blood sugar levels when you need to.

What Causes High Blood Sugar?

The pancreas produces insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar and helps the body utilise it properly. When insulin production decreases or the cells develop resistance to its action (as is the case with type 2 diabetes) or the insulin production stops altogether (type 1 diabetes), the blood sugar level rises.

If you have diabetes and are already on medication or insulin therapy, you may still have high blood sugar. This can happen for several different reasons:

  • The insulin you're taking is insufficient for your body's requirements.
  • Your body isn't producing adequate insulin in response to your diabetes medications.
  • Your body has become less sensitive to insulin.
  • You've eaten more food than you'd planned, or you've eaten foods with high glycemic index that have caused your blood sugar to spike.
  • You've exercised less than usual and your body hasn't used up as much glucose as it usually does.
  • You have stress from an illness, such as a cold or the flu, or from an emotional cause like a family conflict.

Why Does Hyperglycaemia Need to Be Treated?

Whether you sense its symptoms or not, high blood sugar causes a lot of complications. Consistently high blood sugar has been linked with heart disease, kidney disease, diabetic foot disease and diabetic eye disease. It can also cause a life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis, which can which can lead to diabetic coma and requires emergency treatment.

Signs of High Blood Sugar

Initially, high blood sugar can cause the following symptoms:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth and/or skin
  • Blurred vision
  • Small cuts or wounds that do not heal or that are slow to heal
  • Frequent infections
  • Unexplained weight loss

When your blood sugar levels been high for quite some time, the body also starts sending out more warning signs because of the build-up of ketones, chemicals created by the body to break down fat to use for energy when there isn't enough glucose available. This can cause:

  • Fruity-smelling breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Coma

Talk to your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms, even if you think it might be nothing.

How to Lower Blood Sugar Levels

Make sure that you understand your doctor's instructions about how to handle the highs and lows of your blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar is high, you may need to adjust your insulin doses.

Exercise can also help lower blood sugar, but it can cause more trouble if you have ketones in your body. If your blood glucose is over 240 mg/dl, check your urine for ketones. If you notice ketones in your urine, reach out to your doctor and avoid exercising.

Preventing Hyperglycaemia

Sticking to your medications and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are the best gifts you can give yourself if you have diabetes. Being aware of the warning signs and symptoms and detecting them swiftly go a long way in preventing the worst.

Know your blood glucose levels to manage your diabetes. Ask your doctor how often you need to check your blood sugar levels and what tests you need to undertake to check them. According to the American Diabetes Association, the blood glucose levels for most non-pregnant adults should be:

  • Fasting: 80-130 mg/dl
  • Postprandial (two hours after a complete meal): <180 mg/dl

Target numbers depend upon the individual, however, your doctor may recommend different numbers for you.

Being consistent with your diet and exercise is important in avoiding any fluctuations in your blood sugar levels. Identify the patterns to know which foods spike your blood sugar levels. Some foods have higher sugar content than others; avoid foods with a high glycaemic index and switch to those with a medium or low glycaemic index. While you don't need to completely avoid your favourite foods, it is nonetheless best to limit your portion sizes.

Knowledge is the key to optimal diabetes management. Keep yourself updated by talking to your doctor and diabetes counsellor. Diabetes support groups can also help you understand the whys and hows so you can best manage your diabetes.


Disclaimer: This publication/article/editorial is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any Products. Please consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.