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Diabetes: Preventing High Blood Sugar Emergencies

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 stressed.

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 sugar problems:

  • Test your blood sugar often, especially if you are sick or not following your normal routine. You can see when your blood sugar is above your target range, even if you don't have symptoms of high blood sugar (increased thirst, increased urination, and fatigue). Then you can treat it early.
  • Call your doctor if you have frequent high blood sugar or your blood sugar is consistently above your target range. Your medicine may need to be adjusted or changed.
  • Drink extra water or noncaffeinated, nonsugared drinks 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.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Rhonda O'Brien, MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator
Current as of August 15, 2013

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 15, 2013
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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