Hyperglycemia: Signs, Symptoms, and Complications


Hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels) usually develops gradually in patients with type 2 diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), and in the early stages is often not severe enough for you to notice any of the classic symptoms. This may be why many people go undiagnosed for years, but being able to recognize the symptoms of high blood sugar can help you diagnose diabetes, better control it, and prevent an emergency.

For people who have already been diagnosed with diabetes, blood sugar levels that are sporadically higher than normal do not necessarily put you in immediate danger. However, chronically high blood sugar levels can be troublesome. Over time, too high blood sugar levels can affect the body's small and large blood vessels, causing complications in the eyes, heart, kidneys, and legs.

© Get Information on Medicines, 2018

Frequent symptoms

The presence of general symptoms of hyperglycemia can be a warning sign of diabetes for those who have not yet been diagnosed. If you know you have diabetes, these symptoms may indicate a change in your treatment plan.

Excessive thirst (polydipsia)

In an effort to rebalance your blood sugar, your body is trying to eliminate excess sugar in your urine. As a result, the kidneys are forced to work overtime to absorb excess sugar. But because they can't handle the glucose load, they draw fluid from the tissues along with the excess sugar .

The more fluid you lose, the stronger the urge to drink. If you find that you are able to drink constantly and do not feel that your thirst has been quenched or that your mouth is very dry, this could be a sign of hyperglycemia.

Increased hunger (polyphagia)

Too much sugar in the blood means that your body cannot use it for fuel. Consequently, your cells lack energy and you feel extra hunger and, in extreme cases, insatiable. But the more carbohydrates you eat, the higher your blood sugar will be.

Increased urination (polyuria)

More frequent trips to the bathroom, especially at night, can be a sign of high blood sugar. This is the result of the kidneys extracting excess water from the tissues to dilute the excess sugar in the blood and eliminate it in the urine.

Blurry vision

High sugar levels cause the body to draw fluid from tissues, including the lens of the eyes, which can affect your ability to concentrate and cause blurred vision.


When sugar stays in your blood instead of entering your cells for energy, your cells lack food, making you feel sluggish or tired. This can usually happen after eating foods that are especially high in carbohydrates.

Severe symptoms

These specific symptoms tend to occur when someone has been suffering from hyperglycemia for a long time or when their blood sugar is extremely high. They usually indicate an emergency.

Abdominal pain

Chronic hyperglycemia can damage the nerves in the stomach (gastroparesis). Stomach pain can also be a sign of diabetic ketoacidosis , a medical emergency that needs to be treated right away.


Unintentional weight loss is an important sign of high blood sugar, especially in children who drink and urinate frequently. Many children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes lose weight before they are diagnosed. This usually happens because the body cannot use the sugar in the bloodstream for fuel.

Changes in your mouth and breathing

Nausea, vomiting, fruity breath, fast and deep breathing, and loss of consciousness are signs that you need to seek emergency help. These symptoms can be warning signs of other diabetes-related conditions that can be fatal if not treated right away.

Rare symptoms

Some of the rarer symptoms can occur in people with hyperglycemia.


Damage to the nerves in the extremities (known as peripheral neuropathy) occurs over time and can manifest as numbness, tingling, or pain in the hands, feet, or legs.

Skin diseases

Dry / itchy skin, slow-healing wounds or cuts, and acanthosis nigricans (thick, velvety spots found in folds or creases in areas like the neck indicate insulin resistance) may be signs of hyperglycemia.

Frequent yeast infections and erectile dysfunction

These manifestations can affect women and men, respectively.

Nonketotic hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome

Hyperosmolar nonketotic hyperglycemic coma (HHNKC) is an extremely serious complication that can occur in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes , but occurs more often in people who are not insulin dependent (type 2 diabetes).

HHNKC is characterized by dangerously high blood sugar levels that exceed 600 mg / dL and is usually caused by an infection such as pneumonia, a urinary tract infection, or the inability to effectively control blood sugar levels. If left untreated, it can lead to coma and even death.

Signs and symptoms include:

  • intense thirst
  • confusion
  • fever (usually above 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • weakness or paralysis on one side of the body

The best way to prevent HHNKC is to take your medications as directed and stay in contact with your healthcare provider when your blood sugar is consistently above 300 mg / dL.

Diabetic cetoacidosis

Hyperglycemia can lead to another very dangerous condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), which occurs most often in people with type 1 diabetes and is often a condition that often leads to the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.

CAD occurs when there is little or no insulin in the body, and as a result, blood sugar levels rise to dangerous levels and the blood becomes acidic. Cell damage can occur and, if it continues to progress, can cause coma or death. Diabetic ketoacidosis requires immediate medical attention – CAD patients should be monitored by a healthcare professional and receive intravenous fluids, electrolytes, and insulin.


Prolonged and frequent hyperglycemia can lead to a variety of complications known as microvascular (small) and macro (large) problems. These include damage to:

Also, chronically high blood sugar levels can cause or worsen heart disease and peripheral arteries .

During pregnancy

Hyperglycemia during pregnancy can be especially dangerous for the fetus and the mother. According to the ADA, uncontrolled diabetes during pregnancy can present risks such as miscarriage, fetal abnormalities, preeclampsia (uncontrolled blood pressure in the mother), stillbirth, macrosomia (large baby), hypoglycemia in babies at birth, and neonatal hyperbilirubinemia. Additionally, diabetes during pregnancy can increase the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes in offspring later in life.

The updated ADA guidelines for women with diabetes emphasize the importance of preconception counseling. Recommended counseling should address the importance of safely reaching glucose levels as close to normal as possible, ideally an A1C <6.5% (48 mmol / mol), to reduce the risk of birth defects, pre-eclampsia, macrosomia, and other complications.

In children

Hyperglycemia in children, especially if it goes undiagnosed, can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes or ketoacidosis in children with type 1 diabetes. Children with diabetes who have chronically elevated glucose levels are at increased risk of developing complications from diabetes. .

When to contact a healthcare provider

If you don't feel normal and you think you have high blood sugar, check to confirm. If you have high blood sugar and this is an isolated event, you will most likely be able to return to normal on your own. Go for a walk or light exercise, drink plenty of water, and take your medicine as directed.

On the other hand, if you experience high blood sugar levels for several days in a row, call your healthcare team, as your treatment plan may need to be changed.

If you don't have diabetes and you notice any of these signs or symptoms, are overweight, obese, or have a family history of diabetes, you should make an appointment with your doctor to get tested. The macro and microvascular complications of diabetes can occur before a diagnosis is made, so the sooner you receive treatment, the better.

For parents of children without diabetes

If you notice that your child is drinking, eating, and urinating more often than usual, a visit to the doctor is a good idea, especially if you notice a rapid change in weight. If the symptoms are more severe and resemble DKA (see above), go to the emergency room right away.

For Parents of Children How to Get Diabetes

If your child has symptoms of hyperglycemia and his blood sugar is above 240 mg / dL, he should be tested for ketones. If the test is positive, depending on the severity of the ketones, you may be advised to go to the emergency room.

Frequently asked questions

  • They are very similar. Both diabetic and non-diabetic hyperglycemia can cause:

    • Excessive thirst
    • Frequent urination
    • Blurry vision
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Fatigue

    People with diabetes can also feel excessively hungry, and if left untreated, diabetic hyperglycemia can cause more severe symptoms.

  • In the early stages, the symptoms of ketoacidosis are similar to those of hyperglycemia: excessive thirst, frequent urination, and high blood glucose levels. As it develops, you may experience intense hunger with unexpected weight loss, feel tired and confused, have trouble breathing, and have dry skin.

  • Maybe. You should monitor your blood sugar level if you have other symptoms, especially increased thirst and the need to urinate. However, other conditions can cause severe hunger, known as polyphagia , including thyroid disease, emotional distress, and hormonal fluctuations.

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