Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes or have had it for some time, recognizing the symptoms of high and low blood sugars can be confusing. However, knowing your blood sugar levels can help you live your everyday life.

Common Symptoms of Low and High Blood Sugar

Regulating blood sugar levels is one of the most important parts of diabetes management. Having low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) levels can lead to serious complications.

Some common symptoms of low blood sugar include:

  • sweating
  • blurry vision
  • headache
  • heart palpitations
  • fatigue
  • shakiness
  • dizziness

Some common symptoms of high blood sugar include:

  • frequent urination
  • increased thirst
  • increased hunger
  • fatigue
  • blurry vision
  • cuts or sores that heal slower than normal
  • high levels of sugar in the urine

High blood sugar levels can be difficult to pinpoint and can go unnoticed. Eventually the body will reset its blood glucose thermostat, but this may take some time.

Low Blood Sugar: Complications and Management Tips

People with diabetes who experience many episodes of low blood sugar, or who have autonomic neuropathy, may suffer from a dangerous condition called hypoglycemia unawareness.

When your sugar levels frequently go low, the body may suffer from what’s called a “maladaptation.” This means you adapt to the situation in a non-beneficial way. Your body stops responding like it normally would to low blood sugar, so you don’t experience the typical symptoms. You feel fine, but immediately experience severe symptoms of hypoglycemia such as seizures or fainting.

People with diabetes may also suffer from other medical conditions that can cause the sensation of low blood sugar. These conditions include high blood pressure and heart disease. Dizziness can result from blood pressure pills that cause blood pressure to drop too quickly or too much. The dizziness feels like low blood sugar, which is why it’s important to test blood sugar levels when you feel symptomatic, if possible.

A low blood sugar episode doesn’t mean you should start consuming high-calorie, high-fat foods. It’s best to correct low blood sugar with a measured amount of sugar. Glucose tablets have what you need in the simplest form and will turn around a low sugar level quickly. They’re easy to carry around and available at your local drugstore.

Consuming 15 grams of a carbohydrate can help reverse low blood sugar. Examples include:

  • 3-4 sugar tabs
  • 1 cup of milk
  • ½ cup of juice

After eating or drinking, test your blood sugar again in 15 minutes to confirm that it’s rising. If it isn’t, repeat with 15 grams of a carbohydrate until your blood sugar levels rise. Make sure to eat a small meal if you don’t have a meal scheduled soon.

It’s important to re-test your blood sugar to see that it’s increasing. The symptoms of a low sugar level can persist for a long time, even after the blood sugar is no longer low. This is because the hormones your body produces to combat the low sugar take a while to clear out. If you rely just on the symptoms, you may continue to consume sugar when it isn’t needed. This results in overtreatment and a high blood sugar later.

High Blood Sugar: Complications and Management Tips

Pre-diabetics or diabetics who don’t test regularly may misinterpret symptoms of high blood sugars. This is because they’re somewhat common. Symptoms of high blood sugars include excessive thirst, hunger, or more frequent urination. Most people do not feel any symptoms of high blood sugar. Long-term high blood sugar levels can lead to long-term complications in people with diabetes. These complications include kidney disease, eye disease, nerve damage, and blood vessel damage that can lead to heart disease.

The best and only way to know if your blood sugar is too low or too high is to test. Talk to your doctor about how often you should test and if you notice your blood sugar levels are fluctuating too much.