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Advice for people with diabetes and their families

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Hyperglycaemia (Hypers)

Hyperglycaemia, or a hyper, can happen when your blood glucose (sugar) levels are too high – usually above 7mmol/l before a meal and above 8.5mmol/l two hours after a meal. 

What causes hyperglycaemia?

There are several reasons why your blood sugar levels may be too high. It may be that you:

  • have missed a dose of your medication
  • have eaten more carbohydrate than either your body or medication, or both, can cope with
  • are stressed
  • are unwell from an infection
  • have over-treated a hypo.

Signs and symptoms of hyperglycaemia

When your blood sugar levels are slightly higher than normal, you will not usually experience any symptoms. But as they rise, symptoms may include: 

  • passing more urine than normal, especially at night
  • being very thirsty
  • headaches
  • tiredness and lethargy.

How to prevent hyperglycaemia

Testing your blood sugar levels regularly can help you spot the signs of hyperglycaemia. But there are some steps you can take to prevent a hyper from happening:

  • make sure you are aware of your carbohydrate portions and how they may be affecting your blood sugar levels after eating
  • be as active as possible 
  • remember to take your insulin and other diabetes medication, and always take them correctly 
  • continue to take your diabetes medication even if you are ill and not eating.

Can drinking a lot of water lower your blood sugar levels?

Although feeling very thirsty is a symptom of a hyper, drinking a lot of water will not bring your blood sugar levels down. It will only help to reduce your risk of dehydration and will not have an effect on your blood sugar levels. 

It’s important that you take your diabetes medication to bring your blood sugar levels down. If you have consistently high blood sugar levels, you will need to follow the advice below and speak to your diabetes healthcare team.

Treating and managing hyperglycaemia

If your blood sugar level is slightly high for a short time, emergency treatment won’t be necessary. But if it continues to rise you may need to act fast to avoid developing diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).

If your blood sugar level is 15 mmol/l or more, you should check your blood or urine for ketones. If ketones are present, it is likely that you do not have enough insulin in your body. This means you may need to increase your dose or give yourself an extra dose. Talk to your diabetes team about how to do this if you are unsure. 

You should also try to drink plenty of sugar-free fluids to prevent dehydration. And if you are feeling unwell, especially if you are vomiting, you should contact your diabetes healthcare team for advice. 

If you regularly have high blood sugar levels

Having high blood sugar levels regularly is not something you should live with. This is because in the long-term it can increase your risk of developing diabetes complications.

If you notice that your blood sugar levels are often high, you should contact your diabetes healthcare team. They will review your treatment and provide you with advice on how to get your blood sugar levels back within your target range. This advice may include increasing your medication. 

In the video below, Lynsey talks to Khalida about feeling anxious after getting a high blood sugar level reading. If you’re finding it hard to deal with similar feelings, we’ve got information on emotional health that you may find helpful.

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