What Is High Blood Sugar?

The medical term for high blood sugar is hyperglycemia. Blood sugar is also called glucose.

High blood sugar means that the level of sugar in your blood is higher than normal.

How does it occur?

Blood sugar that stays high is the main problem of diabetes.

TYPE 1 DIABETES – If you have type 1 diabetes, high blood sugar happens because your body is not making insulin. Insulin moves sugar from the blood into your cells. It is normally made by the pancreas.

TYPE 2 DIABETES – If you have type 2 diabetes, high blood sugar usually happens because the cells have become unable to use the insulin your body is making.

In both cases high levels of sugar build up in the blood.

Sometimes people with diabetes can have high blood sugar even if they are taking diabetes medicine. This can happen for many reasons, but it always indicates that your diabetes is not in good control. Some reasons why your sugar may be too high are:

  • Skipping your diabetes medicine or not taking the right amount of medicine
  • If you are using insulin: a problem with your insulin (for example, the wrong type or damage to the insulin because it has not been stored properly)
  • If you are using an insulin pump: a problem with the pump (for example, the pump is turned off or the catheter has come out)
  • Taking medicines that affect your blood sugar medicines (for example, steroids, hormones or water pills)
  • Eating or drinking too many calories
  • Not getting enough physical activity
  • Emotional or physical stress
  • Illness, including colds and flu, especially if there is fever
  • Infections, such as an abscessed tooth or urinary tract infection

Even if you don’t have diabetes, you may have high blood sugar for a brief time after you eat a food very high in sugar. For example, it might happen after you drink a large milkshake or eat a large dessert. Hyperglycemia may also happen if you have an illness that makes it hard for your body to process sugar. For example, this may happen if you have pancreatitis (an inflamed pancreas). It can also happen with some medicines, especially steroids. These conditions are usually temporary, and your blood sugar usually returns to normal after you are no longer affected by these issues or you stop taking the medicines.

What are the symptoms?

Usually hyperglycemia causes no symptoms, especially if it is brief. However, if the blood sugar rises above 300 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter) and stays that high for a day or longer, you may have some symptoms. Symptoms may include:

  • Blurry Vision
  • Dry Mouth
  • Feeling Very Thirsty
  • Drinking a Lot
  • Urinating Frequently
  • Tiredness or Fatigue

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION IF you have a blood sugar level of 600 mg/dL or higher! This is an Emergency and can be life threatening! Blood Sugar Levels this high can cause coma’s and even death.

How is it diagnosed?

The level of sugar in your blood can be measured with a blood test. The test should be done before breakfast, after several hours of no food or drink except water. This is called a fasting blood sugar test.

  • A normal fasting blood sugar is 70 to 99 mg/dL.
  • 100 to 125 mg/dL is mildly abnormal and is called a prediabetic blood sugar level.
  • A fasting blood sugar level of 126 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes.

How is it treated?

The treatment depends on the cause.

TYPE 1 DIABETES occurs when the body (pancreas) stops making insulin. It is treated by giving the body more insulin.

TYPE 2 DIABETES can be treated with:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Medicine.

Ask your healthcare provider what you should do if your blood sugar goes over your target, or ideal, range. If you have diabetes, your provider may have you adjust your medicine, exercise, or diet. If you have prediabetes, it is important that you learn how to use a healthy diet and regular exercise to keep from having type 2 diabetes.

Very high blood sugar above 400 mg/dL can be a medical emergency. It must be treated right away.  Your Health Care Provider will look for the cause of the high blood sugar. The cause can vary from an infection to not taking your medicine properly. Severe hyperglycemia usually happens if:

  • You have not yet been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
  • Your diabetes is poorly controlled–that is, you are not keeping your blood sugar in the recommended range
  • You have another medical problem, such as an infection, as well as diabetes.

How long will the effects last?

How long hyperglycemia lasts depends on why it happened and how well you follow the directions for controlling it.


  • TYPE 1 DIABETES – is a lifelong condition. Its symptoms depend on how well your blood sugar levels are controlled.


  • TYPE 2 DIABETES – if you have type 2 diabetes, you will need to be careful about your diet and get enough exercise. Monitoring and Maintaining good blood sugar levels is very important.

High blood sugar can be serious if it’s not treated. If your blood sugar runs too high over time, it can cause problems with your, eyes, kidneys, nerves, and circulation (blood vessels). A very high blood sugar can cause life-threatening problems, coma, or death. If you have type 1 diabetes, untreated high blood sugar can result in a dangerous complication called ketoacidosis (a buildup of acids in your blood). This is life-threatening, but it is preventable.

Hyperglycemia caused by medicines you are taking usually goes away when you stop taking the medicine.

How can I take care of myself?

You should make sure you understand why your blood sugar is high. Follow your healthcare provider’s directions carefully to keep your blood sugar normal. This usually means you need to:

  • Eat a healthy diet as recommended by your healthcare provider.
  • Exercise according to your provider’s recommendation most days of the week.
  • Take medicine exactly as directed, if any has been prescribed.
  • Check your blood sugar as often as your provider recommends.

Not keeping your blood sugar at normal levels can cause very serious problems. It increases your risk of heart and blood vessel disease, stroke, kidney problems, and loss of vision.

If you have diabetes, talk to your healthcare provider and ask:

  • When do I need to call or be seen about high blood sugar levels?
  • What should I do if I’m sick or on Medication and my blood sugar is going up?

What can I do to prevent high blood sugar?

If you don’t have diabetes but there are others in your family who have high blood sugar or type 2 diabetes, you should:

  • Have your blood sugar checked at least once a year.
  • Keep a healthy weight for your height and age.
  • Exercise regularly according to your healthcare provider’s recommendation.

If you do have diabetes, follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for:

  • Eating healthy
  • Getting physical activity
  • Taking your medicines to keep your blood sugar normal
  • Keeping your checkup appointments.


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