What is hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)?

Hyperglycemia or high blood glucose (blood sugar) is a medical condition which occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin or use it properly. Insulin is a natural hormone produced by the pancreas, which helps to transport glucose into body tissues. Our bodies require glucose so that they can function properly. We get glucose when we eat foods such as carbohydrates. Our bodies will break down carbohydrates into sugar, then transport it to the cells via the bloodstream. However, for your cells to absorb the glucose, they need the help of insulin. People who have type 1 diabetes cannot make insulin on their own. On the other hand, people who have type 2 diabetes cannot make enough insulin or use it properly. Because of this, diabetic patients develop hyperglycemia. The disease usually arises when diabetic patients do not take enough insulin before eating, which leads to a build of glucose in the blood. In case you notice signs of hyperglycemia like fatigue, headache, or increased glucose in urine, you should seek medical attention immediately. These symptoms may develop over a few days or weeks.

It is important you keep checking your blood glucose levels to ensure it stays in a normal range. Mostly, when your blood sugar level is above 180 mg/dL after you eat or above 130 mg/dL before eating is considered to be too high. High blood sugar can become complicated and serious if it is left untreated. It is important you treat the medication as soon as you detect it. If you do not treat hyperglycemia, it could lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. Diabetic ketoacidosis is a life threatening medical condition which happens when the body cannot produce enough insulin. Therefore, glucose is unable to get into the cells, which leads to a build up of glucose in the blood. The kidney will filter some of the glucose from the blood and excrete it through the urine. Because the body cells cannot receive glucose for energy, it begins to break muscle and fat for energy. This will lead to ketones being produced that causes a chemical imbalance known as diabetic ketoacidosis. In case you develop ketoacidosis, you should seek medical attention immediately.

Signs and symptoms

You may experience short term signs and symptoms if you are suffering from hyperglycemia.

They include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination at night
  • Fatigue
  • Hunger
  • Dry mouth
  • Sores that are difficult to heal
  • Excessive urination

If you experience any of the above symptoms of hyperglycemia, it is important you seek medical attention immediately. Untreated hyperglycemia can lead to complicated health conditions such as:

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Nerve damage
  • Cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke
  • Eye disease
  • Skin problems like fungal and bacterial infections
  • Foot problems like poor blood flow and damaged nerves

Causes of high blood glucose

There are different factors which can lead to hyperglycemia. It can occur when you are experiencing physical stress. Your body may become stressed when you are suffering from an illness or had undergone a surgery recently. In addition, emotional stress can also lead to high blood sugar because the stress hormones produced in response to stress, can lead to an increase in blood sugar levels. Most of the time, the disease usually leads to the diagnosis of diabetes. Being inactive can also lead to hyperglycemia. Also, if you don’t follow your diet plan can cause your blood sugar levels to rise. Not taking enough insulin or oral diabetic drugs can contribute to hyperglycemia. Using medications like steroids can also cause high blood glucose.

Hyperglycemia treatment

In case you are experiencing high blood glucose levels, talk to your doctor so that you can find the best treatment to bring it to a healthy range. Your doctor may evaluate your treatment plan in terms of your personal health and experiences with high blood sugar. If you are using diabetic drugs, they may change the type, amount and timing of diabetic drugs.

The following are different methods you can use to treat hyperglycemia:

Monitor your blood glucose levels

For you to successfully manage hyperglycemia, you need to check your blood glucose levels regularly. You can record the results on a blood glucose tracking app or notebook. Make sure you share the results with your doctor. Monitoring your blood glucose levels will help you know if it is within the target range or not. Therefore, you can work with your doctor to ensure you properly manage your blood glucose so that you can avoid future complications.


Exercising regularly is an effective method which can help lower blood sugar levels that is too high. In case you are diabetic, you need to talk to your doctor so that you can find the best exercise program that works with your medication. If you are suffering from health complications such as nerve damage, you should tell your doctor so that they can come up with an exercise program that suits you. In case you have ketones, you should not exercise. When you exercise and have ketones, it may worsen your condition leading to higher blood glucose levels. Your healthcare provider may check your urine for ketones if your blood sugar level is above 240 mg/dL.

Eating plan

You can reduce sugary drinks and eat less to help you manage your blood glucose levels. Work with your dietitian so that you can come up with an eating plan that can help you reduce hyperglycemia. Your diet plan may include watching how much carbohydrates you are eating, taking more vegetables, whole grains and fruits. In case you are not comfortable with your diet plan, talk to your dietitian for assistance.

Adjust your insulin doses

Making adjustments to your insulin doses can help you manage hyperglycemia. You may need an extra dose of insulin to help you control your blood glucose levels. If you have high blood sugar, you can ask your healthcare provider how often you should take your insulin supplement. In case you have diabetic ketoacidosis, you may require to be treated in a hospital or emergency room. In addition to electrolytes and fluids, you may require insulin therapy to treat severe hyperglycemia.

Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.