Diabetes-related blood sugar levels
diabetes, you may have high blood sugar levels
(hyperglycemia) or low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia)
from time to time. A cold, the flu, or other sudden illness can cause high
blood sugar levels. You will learn to recognize the symptoms and distinguish
between high and low blood sugar levels.
Insulin and some types of
diabetes medicines can cause low blood sugar levels.
Learn how to recognize and manage high and low blood sugar levels
to help you avoid levels that can lead to medical emergencies, such as
diabetic ketoacidosis or
dehydration from high blood sugar levels or
loss of consciousness from severe low blood sugar
levels. Most high or low blood sugar problems can be managed at home by
following your doctor's instructions.
You can help avoid blood sugar problems by following your doctor's
instructions on the use of insulin or diabetes medicines, diet, and exercise.
Home blood sugar testing will help you determine
whether your blood sugar is within your
target range. If you have had very low blood sugar,
you may be tempted to let your sugar level run high so that you do not have
another low blood sugar problem. But it is most important that you keep your
blood sugar in your target range. You can do this by following your treatment
plan and checking your blood sugar regularly.
Sometimes a pregnant woman can get diabetes during her pregnancy. This is called gestational diabetes. Blood sugar levels are checked regularly during the pregnancy to keep levels within a target range.
Children who have
diabetes need their parents' help to keep their blood sugar levels in a target
range and to exercise safely. Be sure that children learn the
symptoms of both
low blood sugar so they can tell others when they need help. There are many
support groups and diabetes education centers to help parents and children
understand about blood sugar, exercise, diet, and medicines.
especially may have a hard time keeping their blood sugar levels in control
because their bodies are growing and developing. Also, they want to be with
their friends and eat foods that may affect their blood sugar. Having diabetes
during the teenage years is not easy. But your teen is at an excellent age to
understand the disease and its treatment and to take over some of the
responsibilities of his or her care.
If your blood sugar level
reads too high or too low but you are feeling well, you may want to recheck
your sugar level or recalibrate your blood glucose meter. The problem may be
with either your blood sample or the machine.
High blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
High blood sugar occurs when the sugar (glucose) level in your blood
rises above normal. Eating too many calories, missing medicines (insulin or
pills), or having an infection or illness, injury, surgery, or emotional stress
can cause your blood sugar to rise.
High blood sugar usually
develops slowly over a period of hours to days. But missing a dose of insulin
can cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. Blood sugar levels just above
your target range may make you feel tired and thirsty. If your blood sugar
level stays higher than normal for weeks, your body will adjust to that level,
and you may not have as many
symptoms of high blood sugar.
don't monitor your blood sugar regularly or you don't notice the symptoms of
high blood sugar, you usually will have time to treat high blood sugar so that
you can prevent high blood sugar emergencies. Three things can help you prevent
high blood sugar problems:
- Test your blood sugar often, especially if you
are sick or are 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 such as increased thirst, increased urination, and fatigue. Then you can
treat it early, preventing an emergency.
- Call your doctor if you
have frequent high blood sugar levels or if your blood sugar level is
consistently staying above your target range. Your medicine may need to be
adjusted or changed.
- Drink extra water or noncaffeinated,
non-sugared drinks so you will not be dehydrated. If your blood sugar continues
to rise, your kidneys will increase the amount of urine produced, and you can
Complications of high blood sugar can cause serious
problems, including coma and death. Over time, high blood sugar can damage your
eyes, heart, kidneys, blood vessels, and nerves.
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
blood sugar occurs when the sugar (glucose) level in your blood drops below
what your body needs. Not eating enough food or skipping meals, taking too much
medicine (insulin or pills), exercising more than usual, or taking certain
medicines that lower blood sugar can cause your blood
sugar to drop rapidly. Do not drink alcohol if you have problems recognizing the early signs of low blood sugar.
People who lose weight or develop kidney
problems may not need as much insulin or other medicines as they did before
they lost the weight or developed kidney problems. Their blood sugar may drop
too low. Be sure to check your blood sugar often when your body goes
When your blood sugar level drops below 70
milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), you will usually
have symptoms of low blood sugar. This can develop quickly,
in 10 to 15 minutes.
- If your blood sugar level drops just slightly
below your target range (mild low blood sugar), you may feel tired, anxious,
weak, shaky, or sweaty, and you may have a rapid heart rate. If you eat
something that contains sugar, these symptoms may last only a short time. If
you have diabetes, you may not always notice symptoms of mild low blood sugar.
This is called
hypoglycemia unawareness. If your blood sugar is
well controlled and does not change much during the day, you may have an
increased risk for hypoglycemic unawareness.
- If your blood sugar
level continues to drop (usually below 40 mg/dL), your behavior may change, and
you may feel more irritable. You may become too weak or confused to eat
something with sugar to raise your blood sugar level. Anytime your blood sugar
drops below 50 mg/dL, you should act whether you have symptoms or
- If your blood sugar level drops very low (usually below 20
mg/dL), you may lose
consciousness or have a
seizure. If you have symptoms of severe low blood
sugar, you need medical care immediately.
You may have symptoms of low blood sugar if your blood sugar
drops from a high level to a lower level. For example, if your blood sugar
level has been higher than 300 mg/dL for a week or so and the level drops
suddenly to 100 mg/dL, you may have symptoms of low blood sugar even though
your blood sugar is in the normal range. But if you have had diabetes for many
years, you may not have symptoms of low blood sugar until your blood sugar
level is very low.
If your doctor thinks you have low blood sugar
levels but you are not having symptoms, he or she may ask you to check your
blood sugar more often. Your doctor may ask you to check your blood sugar in
the middle of the night or to do a 3-day test using a continuous glucose monitor .
Check your symptoms to decide if and when
you should see a doctor.