You can develop high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) with type 2 diabetes. This may mean you need to work with your doctor to update your diabetes care plan, consider insulin, or adjust your medications.

When living with type 2 diabetes (T2D), you may experience high blood sugar or hyperglycemia.

Unlike type 1 diabetes, in which your body does not produce insulin at all, T2D involves insulin resistance and abnormal insulin release in your body, which may contribute to hyperglycemia.

This article will focus on how you can manage hyperglycemia if you have T2D.

It is possible to experience high blood sugar levels with T2D — especially at the time of diagnosis, when your body may still produce some insulin naturally. As a result of T2D, your body can be resistant to insulin and may not properly use the insulin it produces. This can lead to higher-than-normal blood sugar levels.

If left untreated, high blood sugar levels can result in both short- and long-term health complications, including damage to your heart, kidneys, eyes, peripheral vascular system, and nerves.

It’s crucial to manage high blood sugar levels to help delay or prevent diabetes complications and improve your quality of life.

What is considered hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here is what certain fasting blood sugar levels mean in relation to diabetes:

  • Normal: 99 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) or lower
  • Prediabetes: 100–125 mg/dL
  • Diabetes: 126 mg/dL or higher
  • Hyperglycemia: higher than 130 mg/dL or higher than 180 mg/dL 2 hours after eating

You can read more here to understand what blood sugar levels are considered normal in people with diabetes and how you might be able to manage your blood sugar levels.

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High blood sugar may not cause many symptoms, especially if your levels are not extremely elevated. However, as your blood sugar rises, symptoms tend to get worse.

The symptoms of high blood sugar include:

  • excessive thirst
  • frequent urination
  • fruity-smelling breath
  • blurry vision or changes in vision
  • slow healing of wounds or infections
  • fatigue or lethargy
  • unintentional weight loss

If you’ve been experiencing these symptoms for more than a day and they’re not going away, contact your healthcare team immediately. High blood sugar can become very dangerous if not treated promptly.

This will depend on how you typically manage your diabetes.

Many people with T2D will be able to bring their blood sugar level down by drinking plenty of water and increasing their exercise. By taking a walk or a bike ride, you can typically lower your blood sugar naturally.

If you take glucose-lowering medications or insulin to manage your diabetes, you may want to consult your doctor or healthcare team to determine whether your dosage needs adjusting to help prevent high blood sugar.

Insulin is not a sign of failure

Insulin is not the enemy. Many people with T2D see taking insulin as a sign that they have failed, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

While the number of people with T2D using insulin is unknown, the figure worldwide is estimated to be less than 10%. This 2018 research shows the total number of people in the United States with any type of diabetes using insulin (including type 1 diabetes) is about 25%.

But taking it by injection or another method is not a sign that you’ve failed, because insulin is a necessary hormone for human life.

If you have T2D, you may want to discuss with your healthcare team whether insulin is an option for you.

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High blood sugar levels can cause both short- and long-term health complications.

In the short term, high blood sugar levels can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially fatal condition that occurs when your blood sugar is so high that your body produces excess blood acids in the form of ketones. This condition requires immediate medical attention.

Long-term complications of high blood sugar levels include:

It is possible to experience high blood sugar even if you don’t have diabetes. Blood sugar levels tend to fluctuate in people with and without diabetes, based on factors such as food intake, stress, hormones, activity level, and sleep.

However, if you don’t have insulin resistance or diabetes, your blood sugar level will tend to come back down rather quickly without you ever noticing that it was high, or before any symptoms occur.

If you’ve been experiencing symptoms of high blood sugar for several days and you do not have diabetes, contact a healthcare professional for a routine blood test to rule out diabetes or any other health conditions.

High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) is common in people with T2D.

The symptoms of high blood sugar include thirst, frequent urination, unexplained weight loss, fruity-smelling breath, and vision changes. Increasing your physical activity, drinking plenty of water, and adjusting your diabetes medications can help lower high blood sugar.

You can discuss with your healthcare team any symptoms you experience. If you have symptoms of high blood sugar, you may need to adjust your medications, consider insulin, or revise your diabetes management plan.