Hyperglycemia is high blood sugar that affects people who suffer from diabetes. Hyperglycemia in diabetes can occur due to food, physical activities, illness, nondiabetes medications or insufficient glucose-lowering medications.

Hyperglycemia should be treated as soon as possible because otherwise it may become severe and lead to life threatening complications such as a diabetic coma.



Early symptoms of hyperglycemia include:


  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Fatigue


Later symptoms of hyperglycemia include:


  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fruity-smelling breath
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Abdominal pain
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Coma



The body breaks down carbohydrates into sugar molecules during digestion. Glucose is one of the sugar molecules and the main energy source for the body.

Increase in the level of glucose in the blood signals the pancreas to release insulin, which unlocks the cells so that glucose can enter and provide the cells with functioning energy. Extra glucose is stored in the liver and muscles in the form of glycogen. This process lowers the amount of glucose in the bloodstream and prevents it from reaching high levels.

Diabetes diminishes the effects of insulin on the body leading to a glucose buildup in the bloodstream (hyperglycemia).


Factors that contribute to hyperglycemia


  • Insufficient insulin or oral diabetes medications
  • Expired insulin or not injecting insulin correctly
  • Not following the diabetes eating plan
  • Inactivity
  • Illness or infection
  • Injury or surgery
  • Certain medications (ex. Steroids)
  • Emotional stress



Long-term complications


  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Kidney damage (diabetic nephropathy) or kidney failure
  • Damage to the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy) that may lead to blindness
  • Cataracts
  • Feet problems caused by damaged nerves or poor blood flow that can lead to infections or amputation
  • Bone and joint problems
  • Skin problems (bacterial and fungal infections and nonhealing wounds)
  • Teeth and gum infections


Emergency complications


  • Diabetic ketoacidosis: This occurs due to insufficient insulin in the body. As a result the body begins to break down fat for energy leading to the production of toxic acids, ketones. Untreated, this condition can lead to a diabetic coma.
  • Hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome: This syndrome occurs when the produced insulin does not work properly. Untreated, this condition can cause life-threatening dehydration and coma.




  • Following the diabetes eating plan: The food intake must be in balance with the insulin in the body
  • Regular monitoring of blood sugar
  • Taking medications as directed by a doctor
  • Adjusting the medications if there are changes in physical activities