Discusses preventing high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) problems in a person with diabetes. Explains emergencies in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Includes diabetic ketoacidosis. Discusses treating infections early, being prepared, drinking plenty of liquids.
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
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
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
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.
best way to prevent a high blood sugar emergency is to keep it from
Treat infections early
Untreated infections (such
as urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and skin infections) can increase your
risk for a high blood sugar emergency.
symptoms of high blood sugar, such as increased thirst, increased urination, and fatigue. 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 and 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 overlook early symptoms, especially if you have increased urination
without increased thirst. Testing your blood sugar at home will help you know
when it is high, even if you do not notice symptoms.
(at work and at home) the symptoms of high blood sugar. Teach others 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 pharmacy or on the
If you take insulin, test for ketones, especially if your blood sugar is higher than 300 mg/dL.
Develop 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, depending 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 significantly above a target
range (200 mg/dL or higher).
Follow your doctor's instructions for the
steps for dealing with high blood sugar. Post a list
of the steps in a convenient 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 it with you
when you visit your doctor.
Call your doctor. Let your doctor know if you are having high
blood sugar problems. Your diabetes medicine may need to be adjusted or
changed. If you are taking 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 to replace the fluids lost
through your urine. Water and sugar-free drinks are best. Avoid caffeinated drinks,
alcohol, and soda pop and other liquids that contain 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.