High blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, is a major concern, and can affect people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes . There are two main kinds: Fasting hyperglycemia. This is blood sugar that’s higher than 130 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) after not eating or drinking for at least 8 hours.
Blood sugar is fuel for the body’s organs and functions. But, having high blood sugar does not provide a boost in energy. In fact, the opposite often happens, because the body’s cells cannot access the blood sugar for energy.
High blood sugar can have causes that aren’t due to underlying disease. Examples include recent consumption of a high carbohydrate meal or side effects of certain medications.
How does this feel?
When a person has high blood sugar, they may:
- have a headache and other aches and pains
- find it hard to concentrate
- be very thirsty or hungry
- feel drowsy or tired
- have blurred vision
- feel their mouth is dry
- have bloating
- need to urinate often
- notice that wounds take a long time to heal
High blood sugar and low insulin can lead to a rise in ketones, and possibly diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a serious complication that needs urgent medical attention.
If this occurs, the individual may experience:
- shortness of breath
- a fruity taste or smell on the breath
- a rapid heartbeat
- confusion and disorientation
In addition, the person’s blood sugar levels may be over 250 ml/dL.
However, anyone who thinks they have diabetes should see a doctor first.
How does high blood sugar affect the body?
High sugar in the blood can lead to a number of other symptoms and complications. Here are just a few.
Urination and thirst: High blood sugar goes into the kidneys and urine. This attracts more water, causing frequent urination. This can also lead to increased thirst, despite drinking enough liquids.
Weight loss: High blood sugar can cause sudden or unexplained weight loss. This occurs because the body’s cells are not getting the glucose they need, so the body burns muscle and fat for energy instead.
Numbness and tingling: High blood sugar can also cause numbness, burning, or tingling in the hands, legs, and feet. This is due to diabetic neuropathy, a complication of diabetes that often occurs after many years of high blood sugar levels.
Over time, high blood sugar results in harm to the body’s organs and systems. Damage to the blood vessels can lead to complications, including:
- heart attack or stroke
- damage to the eye and loss of vision
- kidney disease or failure
- nerve problems in the skin, especially the feet, leading to sores, infections, and wound healing problems