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Diabetes Health Center

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Action Set
Diabetes: Preventing High Blood Sugar Emergencies

High blood sugar in diabetes occurs when the sugar (glucose) level in the blood rises above normal. It is also called hyperglycemia. When you have diabetes, high blood sugar may be caused by not getting enough insulin or missing your diabetes medicine. It may also be caused by eating too much food, skipping exercise, or being ill or stressed.

Unlike low blood sugar, high blood sugar usually happens slowly over hours or days. Blood sugar levels above your target range may make you feel tired and thirsty. If your blood sugar keeps rising, your kidneys will make more urine and you can get dehydrated. Signs of dehydration include being thirstier than usual and having darker urine than usual. Without treatment, severe dehydration can be life-threatening. Over time, high blood sugar can damage the eyes, heart, kidneys, blood vessels, and nerves.

Watch for symptoms of high blood sugar. Symptoms include feeling very tired or thirsty and urinating more often than usual. As long as you notice the symptoms, you will probably have time to treat high blood sugar so that you can prevent an emergency. Three things can help you prevent high blood sugar problems:

  • Test your blood sugar often, especially if you are sick or not following your normal routine. Testing lets you see when your blood sugar is above your target range, even if you don't have symptoms. Then you can treat it early.
  • Call your doctor if you often have high blood sugar or your blood sugar is often above your target range. Your medicine may need to be adjusted or changed.
  • Drink extra water or drinks that don't have caffeine or sugar to prevent dehydration.

how.gif  How do you prevent high blood sugar emergencies?

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.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator

Current as ofJune 4, 2014

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 04, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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