If you have diabetes, you already know that hyperglycemia is high blood glucose — also called blood sugar.
But even if you are taking your medication as directed, high blood glucose is still possible and a sign that something is wrong. If you would like to learn more about managing your blood sugar levels, contact a Virginia Mason diabetes specialist, in Seattle, Wash., by calling (206) 223-6627. Print a PDF of this hyperglycemia information >>

What Causes Hyperglycemia?

A number of factors can cause hyperglycemia, including:

  • Needing to have your insulin intake adjusted
  • Eating a heavy meal
  • A lack of physical exercise
  • Fever/illness
  • Having an infection
  • Being under stress
  • Life changes such as having a baby
  • Chronic pain

A normal blood glucose level two hours after eating is less than 180 mg/dL.

If you have Type I diabetes and your blood glucose level is above 240 mg/dL AND you have moderate or large ketones in your urine — you should go to the emergency room. If you have Type 2 diabetes, and levels above 240 mg/dl, contact your doctor.

What Does Hyperglycemia Feel Like?

Symptoms of hyperglycemia include:

  • Being very thirsty
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Having blurry eyesight
  • Feeling numbness or tingling in your feet
  • Losing weight without trying
  • Urinating more often
  • Dry skin and mouth
  • Nausea or vomiting

How to Treat Hyperglycemia

People can often lower their blood glucose level by exercising. Another tactic is to adjust your diet. Talk to your dietitian about changes you might need to make.

If exercise and diet changes do not work, talk to your doctor about changing your medication dosage.

Preventing Hyperglycemia

To prevent hyperglycemia:

  • Be sure to take your medications on time
  • Monitor your blood sugar often, as directed
  • Exercise regularly
  • Manage your stress level
  • Follow your doctor’s instructions on timing of your meals
  • Be especially careful on holidays such as Thanksgiving, or while traveling

While you have to be aware of your carbohydrate intake in general, a healthy diet for you is the same as a healthy diet for most people. Be sure to eat regularly and include:

  • A variety of fruit and vegetables
  • High-fiber grains
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Skinless poultry and fish
  • Healthy fats including olive oil and avocados
  • Nuts and legumes

Living Well With Diabetes

At Virginia Mason, the experienced professionals in our comprehensive diabetes program work with you to help you live well with diabetes. 

These professionals include specially trained:

  • Physicians
  • Nurses
  • Dietitians
  • Certified Diabetes Educators
  • Podiatrists
  • Pharmacists

We also offer a dynamic, one-day class that covers nutrition, exercise, blood sugar levels, and other basics of diabetes self-care. You can register at Living Well with Diabetes. Get more information by calling (206) 223-6627.