Diabetes Treatment: When Blood Sugar is Too High or Too Low

Diabetes Treatments

Blood Sugar Tracker
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you face the challenge of stabilizing your blood sugar levels.

When your condition is poorly controlled, you may suffer from hyperglycemia – or high blood sugar. Too little insulin in your blood and not enough sugar may lead to hypoglycemia – or low blood sugar.

Both conditions can have severe health consequences. Hypoglycemia has been known to cause permanent neurological damage or even death if left untreated.

Hyperglycemia can result in a diabetic coma or long-term complications like nerve or kidney damage. Test your blood sugar regularly, and learn the signs and treatment for low and high blood sugar to help manage your diabetes.

Hypoglycemia

Causes:

  • Taking too much insulin or other medications used to treat your diabetes
  • Other additional medications, such as beta blockers
  • Skipping a meal or not eating enough
  • Increasing exercise or physical activity without eating more or adjusting your medications
  • Drinking alcohol

Symptoms:

  • Shakiness
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating (even at night)
  • Excessive moodiness or irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Hunger
  • Slurred speech
  • Drowsiness
  • Blurry vision
  • Clumsiness
  • In extreme cases: Unconsciousness, seizures or death

What to Do:

  • Always wear a medical ID band or necklace.
  • Tell your friends and family about the symptoms of hypoglycemia and what to do if you need help.
  • Monitor your blood sugar levels carefully and be aware of any symptoms.
  • Carry glucose tablets with you so you’ll be able to raise your blood sugar relatively quickly. If you don’t have any with you, drink about a half a cup of fruit juice or regular soft drink. Five or six pieces of hard candy can also help.
  • Wait 15 minutes and check your blood sugar to make sure it’s at 70 or above. If not, repeat the previous steps as needed.
  • After 15 minutes, check your blood glucose again to make sure your level is 70 or above. Repeat these steps as needed. Once your blood glucose is stable, have a snack if it will be at least an hour before your next meal.
  • Keep your blood sugar testing supplies on hand at all time, and include easy instructions in your case. In the event that you are unable to do so yourself, someone may have to test your blood sugar for you.
  • If you lose consciousness or are unable to swallow, you may need an injection of glucagon to help raise your blood sugar levels quickly. This would be prescribed by your doctor.
  • In extreme cases, seek emergency treatment right away.

Hyperglycemia

Causes:

  • Not taking your diabetes medication as prescribed or taking a dose that’s too low to treat your diabetes effectively
  • Not following your diabetic eating plan
  • Being ill or having surgery
  • Stress
  • Inactivity

Symptoms:

  • Frequent urination
  • Thirst
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Fruity-smelling breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Weakness and confusion
  • Abdominal pain
  • Wounds that are slow to heal
  • In extreme cases: Coma

What to Do:

  • Always wear a medical ID band or necklace.
  • Check your blood sugar level. If it’s above 240 mg/dL, check your urine for ketones. This can be done with a urine testing strip. Ketones present in the urine can be an indicator of a serious and life-threatening problem called ketoacidosis. If you have repeated episodes of hyperglycemia, and you haven’t received these testing strips from your doctor, talk to him or her to see if you need them.
  • Be careful when exercising. Exercising when ketones are present can be a factor in developing ketoacidosis. Talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program if your blood sugar levels are high.
  • Work with your doctor and dietitian to change your meal plan.

By keeping your blood glucose levels within the range recommended by your doctor, you can decrease your chances of having hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia. However, it’s important to understand the warning signs and know how to treat each condition as a part of your diabetes management.

Want to know more? Find more helpful information and tips by visiting our “Lifestyle” section.