Hyperglycemia Symptoms: The Telltale Signs and What to Do
Recognize The Signs of Hyperglycemia and Take Action.
Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, is an excess of glucose in the bloodstream. Even when you do your best to manage your blood glucose, you will experience highs. These highs can be dangerous if you don’t act quickly. The reference table below can help you quickly recognize the signs of hyperglycemia (when your fasting blood glucose is at or above 11 mmol/L)1 and act. You may want to print it off and keep it handy.
Recognize and treat symptoms of hyperglycemia
|Signs to look out for||What to do|
Try to figure out why it’s high
Did you have a larger-than-usual meal or snack?
Did you calculate your carbohydrate intake correctly?
Did you not take enough insulin?
Were you less physically active than usual?
Are you feeling unwell or are you sick?
Take action to lower your blood glucose to your target levels
Note: When initially discussing your diabetes care plan, ask your doctor how you should adjust your insulin when your blood glucose is high.
Engage in mild physical activity and drink non-sugary drinks to prevent dehydration.
Re-test your blood glucose to see if it has decreased.
If it remains high for a few days, consult your healthcare team. Changes may be needed to your diabetes management plan.
If your blood glucose is very high (>14.0 mmol/L, but it can be lower than this number so watch for the symptoms below), check for ketones.2
Ketoacidosis develops when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, so it breaks down fats into ketones. Ketone levels can be measured with a simple urine test using ketone strips (similar to blood glucose test strips) purchased from the pharmacy.
Ketoacidosis can be very serious and lead to a diabetic coma. Ketoacidosis usually develops slowly. But when vomiting occurs, this life-threatening condition can develop in a few hours. Get medical help right away if you notice these symptoms3:
Thirst or a very dry mouth
High blood glucose levels
High levels of ketones in the urine
Constantly feeling tired
Dry or flushed skin
Nausea, vomiting, or stomach pain
A hard time paying attention or feeling confused
Because you may need help from those around you, it may be helpful to:
- Wear a MedicAlert® bracelet to notify people of your condition
- Alert those close to you (friends, family, coaches) on symptoms to watch out for and what to do
- Be sure to share this list and information with your friends and family so they are informed and can help
- Keep a supply of ketone test strips at home
1 Clayton D, Woo, V, Yale JF, et al. Canadian Diabetes Association 2013 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada: hypoglycemia. Can J Diabetes 2013;37(suppl 1): S69-S71. Accessed September 30, 2018.
2 Canadian Diabetes Association Clinical Practice Guidelines. Hyperglycemic Emergencies in Adults. Can J Diabetes 37(2013):S72-S76. Accessed September 30, 2018.
3 American Diabetes Association. DKA (Ketoacidosis & Ketones). Available at:
http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/ketoacidosis-dka.html. Accessed September 30, 2018.