Discusses preventing high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) problems in a person with diabetes. Explains emergencies in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Discusses treating infections early, being prepared, and drinking plenty of liquids.
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
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
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
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 do you prevent high blood sugar emergencies?
Treat infections early
Infections that aren't treated (such
as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and skin infections) can raise your
risk for a high blood sugar emergency.
symptoms of high blood sugar. They include feeling very thirsty, feeling very tired, and urinating more than usual. Post a list of the
symptoms in a place where you can see it often, such as on your refrigerator
door. Add any symptoms you have noticed that may not be on the list. Make sure
other people know the symptoms. Teach them what to do in case of an
Check your blood sugar at home often, especially if you
are sick or not following your normal routine. If you don't have a blood
sugar meter, talk with your doctor about getting one. It is
easy to miss the early symptoms, especially if you urinate more than usual but aren't more thirsty. Testing your blood sugar at home will help you know
when it is high, even if you don't notice symptoms.
(at work and at home) the symptoms of high blood sugar. Teach them to call
911 if you are unconscious or too sick to
check your own blood sugar.
Wear medical identification. Have a
medical alert bracelet or other form of medical jewelry with you at all times.
This is very important in case you are too sick or injured to speak for
yourself. You can find medical identification at a drugstore or on the
Make a plan. Usually people who take insulin need to
take extra fast-acting insulin when their blood sugar levels are high. Talk
with your doctor about how much to take. This depends on your blood sugar level
Take your medicines as prescribed. Don't skip
diabetes medicine or insulin doses without first talking with your
Treat high blood sugar early
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 well above your target
range (for example, 200 mg/dL or higher).
Follow your doctor's instructions for the
steps for dealing with high blood sugar. Post the steps in a handy place at home and work. Make sure other people
know what to do if you are unable to treat high blood sugar.
record(What is a PDF document?) of high blood sugar levels. Write down your symptoms and how you treated them. And take the record with you
when you see your doctor.
Call your doctor. Let your doctor know if you have high
blood sugar problems. Your diabetes medicine may need to be adjusted or
changed. If you take insulin, your dose of insulin may need to be
Drink plenty of liquids
If your blood sugar levels
are above your target range, drink extra liquids. This helps replace the fluids lost
through your urine. Water and sugar-free drinks are best. Avoid caffeinated drinks,
alcohol, and soda pop. And avoid other drinks that have 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.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.