What Does It Feel Like When Your Blood Sugar Is too High?

Ask the experts

I've been diagnosed with hyperglycemia as a result of my diabetes. It can come on suddenly. What does it feel like when your blood sugar is too high?

Doctor's response

In addition to having elevated levels of glucose in the blood, people with hyperglycemia often have glucose detected in their urine (glycosuria). Ordinarily urine contains no glucose because it is reabsorbed by the kidneys.

The main symptoms of hyperglycemia are increased thirst and a frequent need to urinate. Other symptoms that can occur with high blood sugar are:

Severely elevated blood sugar levels can result in a medical emergency ("diabetic coma"). This can occur in both people with type 1 and those with type 2 diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes may develop diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), and those with type 2 diabetes can develop hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (HHNS, also referred to as hyperglycemi hyperosmolar state). These so-called hyperglycemia crises are serious conditions that can be life threatening if not treated immediately. Hyperglycemic crises cause about 2,400 deaths each year in the U.S.

Over time, hyperglycemia can lead to damage to organs and tissues. Long-term hyperglycemia can impair the immune response, leading to poor healing of cuts and wounds. It can also cause nerve damage, vision problems, and damage to the blood vessels and kidneys (see below).

For more information, read our full medical article on hyperglycemia.

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Last Editorial Review: 5/31/2018
References
CDC.gov. About Diabetes. Updated: Jun 01, 2017.
<https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/diabetes.html>

American Diabetes Association.