Hyperglycemia is when you have elevated blood sugar. Before a meal, or when you have not eaten in several hours, high blood sugar is defined as 130 mg/dL. Two hours after eating, hyperglycemia is when blood sugar levels are above 180 mg/dL.

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By comparison, normal blood sugar levels are generally between 80 mg/dL and 130 mg/dL. Hyperglycemia is most common for people with diabetes, and essentially, it describes the high blood sugars that define the chronic condition.

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Here’s how you can recognize the signs of high blood sugar and lower it quickly. 

Early signs and symptoms


Recognizing early signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia can help you treat the condition promptly. Watch for:

  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

Later signs and symptoms


If hyperglycemia goes untreated, it can cause toxic acids (ketones) to build up in your blood and urine (ketoacidosis). Signs and symptoms include:

  • Fruity-smelling breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Coma
  • Abdominal pain



Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can cause hyperglycemia. But there are also other potential causes, like stress or steroid medications.

Hyperglycemia can also occur occasionally in people who are being treated for diabetes.

Even people without diabetes can get hyperglycemia. For example, stress can cause insulin resistance — a condition where your body doesn’t utilize insulin effectively.

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Steroids, like Prednisone and methylprednisolone, can also cause hyperglycemia in up to 46% of patients without diabetes, but this usually resolves when the medication is stopped.


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The following suggestions can help keep your blood sugar within your target range:

Follow your diabetes meal plan.

If you take insulin or oral diabetes medication, it’s important that you be consistent about the amount and timing of your meals and snacks. The food you eat must be in balance with the insulin working in your body.

Monitor your blood sugar.

Depending on your treatment plan, you may check and record your blood sugar level several times a week or several times a day. Careful monitoring is the only way to make sure that your blood sugar level remains within your target range. Note when your glucose readings are above or below your goal range.

Take your medication seriously.

Not taking your medicine as prescribed by a doctor or instructed by a pharmacist could lead to your disease getting worse, hospitalization, even death.

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In some cases, hyperglycemia can also occur as a result of stress or as a side effect of steroid medication. Adjust your medication if you change your physical activity. The adjustment depends on the blood sugar test results and on the type and length of the activity.