Hyperglycemia - High Blood Sugar Treatment and Prevention

Hyperglycemia as a Diabetes Emergency

Hyperglycemia is a potential diabetes emergency, and knowing what to do when it happens is critical.

What can happen: Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, is common among people with type 1 diabetes. It becomes an emergency situation when the glucose in your blood rises to dangerous levels, usually above 240 mg/dl. Classic symptoms of high blood sugar are frequent urination and increased thirst.

High blood sugar usually occurs because you:

  • have not given yourself enough insulin
  • have eaten more than what you’ve covered for with your insulin
  • are sick
  • are under stress

Hyperglycemia can also occur at night while you sleep. Common causes of high glucose at night might be eating too much before bedtime or an increase in insulin resistance during the night caused by hormone fluctuations (also called the Dawn Phenomenon). If you notice high blood sugar upon waking, it might be related to a sudden drop in glucose levels during the night. This rapid drop sends a signal that your body needs more glucose, and your body responds by dumping extra glucose into your system. This is called the Somogyi Effect or more commonly a “rebound.”

How to respond: Though you may suspect that your blood sugar is high, testing your blood is the only way to know for certain. Once you know your glucose level, take the prescribed dose of insulin to bring your glucose level down.

If your test result is higher than 240 mg/dl, you should also test your urine for ketones.

Learn more about other diabetes emergencies you should be prepared for:


Hyperglycemia. American Diabetes Association. Accessed March 12, 2009. http://www.diabetes.org/type-1-diabetes/hyperglycemia.jsp

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