| Diabetes - Hyperglycemia and Hypoglycemia


Hyperglycemia or high blood sugar is when your blood sugar or glucose is higher then normal. A blood sugar over 180 mg/dl is considered hyperglycemia. If you have blood sugars over this level for long periods of time, it could put you at risk for complications. Blood sugars over 240 mg/dl for Type 1 diabetics can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a life threatening condition.

What are the causes of Hyperglycemia:
  • You skipped your insulin injections or did not take the right amount.
  • Your insulin may be expired or damaged by heat or cold.
  • You are not taking or missed your oral medications.
  • You ate too much food especially those foods high in carbohydrates such as breads, pasta, rice, fruits and cereals.
  • You may be experiencing an illness or an infection.
  • You may be stressed from family conflicts, school or dating problems & other sources of stress in your life.
  • You are fearful of low blood sugar and kept your sugars high to prevent them.
  • You exercised less than planned.
What to look for or symptoms of hyperglycemia:
High blood sugars normally occur slowly so you may not feel anything wrong. If your blood sugars or glucose does get high, you may experience some of the following:
  • Thirst
  • Headache
  • Blurry vision
  • Hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Dry itching skin
  • Nausea
  • Feeling tired
  • The best treatment is prevention. This can be done by testing your blood sugars regularly with your meter.
  • Exercising can lower blood sugars.
  • Cutting down on the amount and types of food you eat.
  • Take you medications per your doctor's orders.
  • If you are a Type 1 diabetic and your blood sugars are over 240 mg/dl you should test for ketones. If ketones are present you should drink eight glasses of water per day, do not exercise, and call your doctor for instructions.


Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar is when your blood sugars or glucose is lower then normal. A blood sugar under 70 mg/dl is considered hypoglycemia. Some individuals can function when their blood sugars are under 70 mg/dl and others can not. In any case, blood sugars under 70 mg/dl should be treated. Hypoglycemia is an emergency that must be treated immediately. Without treatment, hypoglycemia can lead to unconsciousness and convulsions and in some cases death.

What are the causes of Hypoglycemia:
  • You took too much insulin.
  • You took too much of your oral diabetes medications.
  • You ate too little food especially those foods high in carbohydrates or you missed/skipped your meal.
  • You delayed your meal after taking your insulin or diabetic medications.
  • You exercised too long or too hard.
  • Excessive use of alcohol.
What to look for or symptoms of Hypoglycemia:
Low blood sugars can happen very quickly. Most diabetics can feel their low blood sugars. Other diabetics over time lose their ability to feel low blood sugars. If your blood sugars do go low, you may experience some of the following:
  • Shaking
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Hunger
  • Sweating
  • Pale skin color
  • Difficulty paying attention or concentrating
  • Irritable or sudden mood changes
  • Numbness around the mouth or lips
  • Slurred speech
  • Feeling tired, sleepiness
  • Feeling anxious or weak
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
  • The best treatment is prevention. This can be done by testing your blood sugars regularly with your meter.
  • If you have hypoglycemia and are conscious you should take one of the quick-acting sugars such as:
    • Glucose tablets ( take 3 tablets)
    • Glucose gel
    • Cake icing
    • Orange juice (1/2 cup)
    • Regular soda (1/2can)
    • Lifesavers (5-7)
Note: Chocolate candy is not recommended because the fat content can delay the absorption of glucose.
  • Diabetics that have hypoglycemia and are unconscious should not be given food which could lead to choking. They should be given a Glucagon injection. Glucagon kits can be provided by your doctor but do require your family members be trained on the simple procedure for administering it. If the diabetic is non-responsive to the glucagon injection after 15 to 20 minutes dialing 911 is advisable.
  • Always wear you Medical Alert bracelet. It will tell the emergency medical personal what to look for.
  • If you have 3 hypoglycemic events or more per week or need assistance in your home treatment - you should notify your doctor.

Hyperglycemia and Hypoglycemia can be prevented or reduced by following your doctors instructions, taking your medication as prescribed, following a good meal plan, testing your blood sugars regularly, and knowing how to treat it at home. Blood sugar testing is a very important part of preventing Hyperglycemia and Hypoglycemia. If you do not have a glucose meter please have your doctor get you one and use it.

From "Hypoglycemia" and "Hyperglycemia" American Diabetes Association website



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