Hyperglycemia can be a medical emergency that requires hospital care. In the hospital, treatments such as insulin therapy, electrolytes, and fluid replacement, can bring blood sugar down.
High blood sugar, also called hyperglycemia, can often be treated at home. But it’s important to seek hospital treatment when blood sugar levels are dangerously high or when you begin having additional symptoms.
Hospitals can help lower high blood sugar levels with treatments such as fluid replacement, electrolyte replacement, and insulin therapy.
Very high blood sugar sometimes requires hospitalization. At the hospital, you’ll likely receive a few different treatments to help lower your blood sugar. This can include:
- Insulin therapy: Insulin reduces high blood sugar and reverses any buildup of ketones in your blood.
- Fluid replacement: Fluids can help dilute extra sugar in your blood. Receiving IV fluids can also help replace any fluids you might have lost through excessive urination.
- Electrolyte replacement: When your insulin levels are low, your electrolyte levels can also drop. Your body needs electrolytes so that tissues and organs can work correctly. You can receive replacement electrolytes through an IV at the hospital.
Sometimes, other treatments might be needed. This will depend on what caused your blood sugar to rise and on your overall health. For instance, doctors might make changes to your at-home diabetes management while you’re in the hospital. You might also receive care for concerns such as wounds or leg swelling.
The right time to seek medical attention for high blood sugar can depend on if you have additional symptoms. If your only symptom is high blood sugar, it’s important to get medical care if your blood sugar reaches 400 mg/dL or above. Blood sugar above 400 are very dangerous and can lead to coma.
There are times when it’s important to seek immediate medical care for blood sugar lower than 400 mg/dL.
This happens when you’re experiencing additional symptoms of high blood sugar, including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and confusion, and your blood sugar is 240 mg/dL above.
If you can’t get your blood sugar below 240 mg/dL and you can’t keep down food or liquids, it’s a medical emergency that requires treatment.
Insulin is one of the primary treatments you will receive in the hospital. You can receive emergency insulin doses to help bring down your high blood sugar.
If you’re admitted to the hospital, you’ll also receive regular insulin doses from a nurse while there.
However, you might also be able to manage your own injections or continue using your own insulin pump. You can discuss this with your doctor and the nurses providing your care.
If you have diabetes, it’s a good idea to have a few things with you during a hospital stay. This includes:
- Your own blood glucose meter and its supplies: The hospital will be monitoring your blood sugar, but it never hurts to have a way to check your own blood sugar.
- Your own diabetes medications: Bring your own insulin and any medications you take. The hospital will have supplies on hand, but they might not have your specific brand. It’s best to have everything you use with you.
- Your insulin pump: If you have an insulin pump, it’s a good idea to bring it with you to the hospital.
- Written information about your medical history: Today, hospitals can pull up patient information from electronic databases, but it’s still possible for important details to be missing. Bringing your own information with you ensures hospital doctors can provide the best treatment.
- Contact information for all members of your diabetes care team: It’s important to make sure that hospital doctors can contact your primary doctor, your endocrinologist, and any other doctor who helps you manage your diabetes. Hospital doctors can discuss your medical history, your hospital stay, and any possible changes to your treatment with your diabetes care team.
- Contact information for a patient advocate: Patient advocates can help you navigate a hospital stay. Many hospitals have patient advocates on staff. You can also search for patient advocates in your community or ask your diabetes care team for recommendations.
Some hospitals use continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) as part of blood sugar management.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved CGM for some types of hospital use. However, not all hospitals have these monitors, and many hospitals still rely on regular finger-pick glucose testing.
Very high blood sugar levels can require treatment at the hospital. It’s important to seek medical care if your blood sugar is over 400 mg/DL, or if your blood sugar is over 240 mg/dL along with symptoms such as dizziness, confusion, nausea, and diarrhea.
Once you’re in the hospital, treatments such as insulin, rehydration, and electrolytes can help bring down your blood sugar.