What to do when blood sugar spikes

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Any diabetic will know it is critical to know what to do when blood sugar spikesWhat to do when blood sugar spikes - pancreas

First, let’s understand a bit about how the body works.

Most of the food we eat is broken down into glucose so it can be used as our primary fuel source.

In order for that glucose to be used as fuel, it first needs to enter our cells.

Normally, our bodies produce insulin in our pancreas. that insulin will then act as the door into the cells.

In type 1 diabetic their immune system attacks and kills the betas cells that produce insulin-making them unable to produce insulin.

Type 2 diabetics are unable to use insulin effectively.

In both cases, the glucose is unable to enter the cells and be used for energy causing it to build up in the blood causing high blood sugars.

Over time high blood sugars cand cause damage to blood vessels, nerves, and organs,

So how do we know if we have high blood sugars?

Blood sugar spike symptoms

It is important for diabetics and/or their caregivers to recognize the symptoms of high blood sugars (hyperglycemia).What to do when blood sugar spikes - excessive thirst

Understanding what to look for can be a big part of managing your diabetes.

The symptoms can include:

  • excessive thirst
  • frequent urination
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • blurred vision

If you or someone you love experiences these symptoms be sure to get checked out by a doctor, you may have diabetes.

It was the excessive thirst and frequent urination that made my daughter suspect her son had diabetes. She made a doctor’s appointment and he was tested in her office then immediately sent to the hospital because his blood glucose levels were so high.

If you have already been diagnosed and are experiencing these symptoms check your blood sugars immediately and treat the high.

If left untreated it could lead to DKA(Diabetic Ketoacidosis) which is a very serious medical emergency.

What it do in the case of a blood sugar spike

Knowing what to do for high blood sugars can help prevent a more serious condition like DKA.

If you suspect your sugars are high the first thing you should do is a finger poke to know what level you are at.

Drinking water can help flush some of those sugars out.

Light exercise such as walking can also help lower blood sugars. Stay away from heavy exercise though as it may cause blood sugars to rise further.

If blood sugars remain high several hours after a meal in spite of taking your insulin you can have a small dose of insulin to help bring those levels down.

Be sure to finger poke again in 15 minutes to ensure the levels are coming down and not going too low.

If your blood sugars have remained high for several hours it a good idea to do a simple urine test for ketones. If ketones are present contact your doctor.

DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis)

When blood sugar remains high for too long the cells become starved for fuel. Your cells will then turn to fat for fuel. For diabetics, this can cause the blood to become acidic which can cause complications such as damage to blood vessels, nerves, and organs. If your sugars have been high for several hours be sure to test for ketones.What to do when blood sugar spikes - ketone test strips

Symptoms of DKA include:

  • fruity-smelling breath
  • nausea and vomiting
  • severe dry mouth
  • trouble breathing
  • weakness
  • abdominal pain
  • confusion
  • coma

Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA) is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention.

Call 911 and administer treatment with a Glucagon Emergency Kit followed by hospitalization.

Causes of blood sugar spikes

Blood glucose (sugar) levels tend to fluctuate all day. Your blood sugar levels will be affected by everything you do. The food you eat, especially those high in carbs, exercise, and even sleep will all affect blood glucose levels.

If you find your levels are consistently high you should discuss treatment options with your doctor.

Blood sugars can rise when:

  • not taking enough insulin
  • insulin isn’t lasting long enough
  • not taking other diabetes medications
  • insulin is expired
  • not following your nutritional plan as set forth by your diabetes care team
  • you are sick or have an infection
  • taking medications such as steroids
  • physical stress (injury or surgery)
  • emotional stress

It is important to keep accurate records of your blood sugar levels.

This is how you will know if you are remaining high and may need to make changes to your treatment plan. Don’t make any changes without consulting your doctor first.

Complications

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetics can develop complications if blood sugars remain too high for long periods of time.

DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis) occurs when type 1 diabetics have maintained high blood sugars over a period of time. This is a serious medical emergency and requires immediate medical treatment.

Hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome occurs in type 2 diabetics. The body continues to make insulin but the hormone doesn’t work well or at all.

Glucose still builds up in the blood but the body can neither use it nor use fat for fuel. The extra sugar leaves the body through urine and can cause dehydration, coma, and even death.

High blood sugar can also cause other complications such as:

  • heart disease
  • nerve damage
  • kidney damage or failure
  • damage to feet leading to amputation
  • skin infections
  • blindness
  • teeth and gum problems

Work closely with your diabetes care team and follow your diabetes care plan in order to minimize or possibly even avoid serious complications.

Conclusion

Knowing what to do when blood sugar spikes can be a key component in avoiding serious diabetes complications.

What to do if blood sugar spikesIt is important to frequently monitor blood glucose levels and keep a record.

If you notice blood sugars are staying high talk with your doctor, a change in treatment plan may be necessary.

Be sure to take all medications as directed by your doctor and never skip insulin doses.

Follow your nutrition plan and get mild exercise daily.

Know the symptoms to watch out for and treat any highs or lows immediately.

“I am not in any way a medical practitioner, please do not rely on the information on our website as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or another healthcare provider. We only share our experiences.”

How have you managed your blood sugar spikes?

Were you able to avoid any serious DKA episodes?

Share your experiences in the comment section below.


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6 thoughts on “What to do when blood sugar spikes”

  1. Hi Deborah. Thank you for your informative article on blood sugar spikes. I’m surprised to learn that heavy exercise may cause blood sugars to rise further. Do you have any idea what’s the reason behind this?

    Reply
    • Hi Janet, I was also surprised to learn that heavy exercise can cause blood sugar levels to spike. The reason this happens is that during heavy exercise the muscles require extra sugar for fuel. Our body releases that sugar into the bloodstream to be used for fuel. Once you are finished exercising the body will produce sufficient insulin to return blood sugar levels to normal. In a type 1 diabetic, they are unable to produce the necessary insulin. In type 2 diabetes the body can’t use the insulin efficiently. In either case the blood sugar levels remain too high risking complications.

      Reply
  2. Oddly I learned more from this article than I have from 2 different diabetic doctors (over a 5 year span). I have experience many of the symptoms listed. I clearly need to pay better attention! Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Brianna, I am thankful this article was able to help you. Keep trying different doctors until you find one who answers your questions and takes the time to truly understand your health issues. High blood sugars can affect us in several ways so paying attention to your body and how you feel is very important. If you are diagnosed with diabetes be sure to follow your treatment plan. It really doesn’t take long before it becomes a normal part of your day. Take care.

      Reply
  3. Hi,
    One of my colleagues has a similar situation when her sugar level spikes up. She however has a heart condition as well. Which makes things complicated. I will pass this knowledge onto her so she can manage her sugar spikes more effectively.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Thanks for commenting Habib. I am sorry to hear your friend has both a heart condition and sugar spikes. I would seriously encourage her to seek medical advice. Heart disease is one of the very serious complications of diabetes. By treating diabetes she could significantly lessen the effects of heart disease. Check out my article on diabetes complications. It may help explain a little more of the seriousness of these conditions. You are a very good friend to pass on this knowledge. Best of luck to you both.

      Reply

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