One of the challenges of managing diabetes is maintaining consistent blood sugar (glucose) levels. Even with diligence, some situations can cause high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia, while others can bring on low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. So it’s important to know the signs of both high and low levels, and what actions to take to bring them back within a desired range.
Monitoring your blood sugar levels with a glucose meter will do a lot to help you keep those levels steady and avoid the complications that can come with diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic, how often you check your blood sugar level depends on many factors, including your age, the type and severity of your diabetes, the length of time that you've had the condition, and the presence of any diabetes-related complications.
About High Blood Sugar (Hyperglycemia)
Common signs of high blood sugar include frequent urination, fatigue, dry or itchy skin, feeling thirsty, more frequent infections, and eating more food but not gaining as much weight as usual, says Athena Philis-Tsimikas, MD of the Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute in San Diego, California.
A blood sugar reading above 180 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is considered above normal and can bring on these symptoms, although it’s possible to have high blood sugar without any symptoms, Dr. Philis-Tsimikas says. A reading above 300 mg/dL is considered severe. If your blood sugar is above 250 mg/dL for two days, Philis-Tsimikas advises informing your doctor and asking for specific treatment recommendations. Blood sugar levels above 300 mg/dL can cause nausea, drowsiness, blurred vision, confusion, and dizziness, especially when standing up from a sitting or lying position.
Ways to treat high blood sugar include:
- Taking your prescribed medications as directed
- Eating fewer carbohydrates with your meals
- Exercising regularly with your doctor’s guidance
About Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)
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To treat blood sugar below 70 mg/dL, Philis-Tsimikas recommends one of these options (only one at a time):
- Drink 1/2 to 1 cup of juice, skim milk, or regular soda OR
- Chew five to six hard candies OR
- Take four glucose tablets OR
- Swallow one tube of glucose gel
Then, check your blood sugar in 15 minutes. If it’s still below 70 mg/dL, consume more sugar. If your symptoms don’t stop, call your doctor or seek medical attention. If your blood sugar returns to normal, be sure to eat at your next scheduled meal or snack.