Causes and Treatments for High Levels of Sugar in Urine

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Normally, there is no or little glucose (sugar) in urine. If levels are high, known as glycosuria, it could be a sign of a health condition. For example, people with diabetes may have high amounts of glucose in their urine because the kidneys are working to get rid of some of the excess sugar circulating in the blood.

While glucose in urine doesn't require treatment, the underlying condition behind it may need to be managed. Urine glucose tests can measure the amount of glucose in urine, but additional testing is needed to determine the cause.

This article explains the potential causes of glycosuria. It will also cover when to seek medical attention, as well as how glycosuria is diagnosed and treated.

Potential Causes of High Sugar Levels in Urine - Illustration by Katie Kerpel

Verywell / Katie Kerpel

How Glucose Gets into Urine

It's normal for there to be glucose in your blood which can also end up in your urine. Small organs called kidneys are responsible for filtering blood and removing waste. The cleaned blood is transferred back to the body. The leftover waste goes to the bladder, which collects urine, and is released when you pee.

Most healthy people won't have much, if any, glucose in their urine. The normal range for glucose in urine is 0 to 0.8 mmol/l (0 to 15 mg/dL).

While most of the sugar is reabsorbed by the kidneys and put back into the bloodstream, some sugar may remain. This sugar travels with the rest of the fluid to the bladder, leaving the body with your urine.

Glycosuria can occur if the kidneys don't remove enough sugar before it leaves your body as urine. When the amount of sugar in urine is greater than 25 mg/dL, it is considered glycosuria.

Recap

It's normal for some sugar to be present in your urine. However, glycosuria may occur if the kidneys, which act as filters, don't remove enough glucose from your urine before it leaves your body.

Causes of High Glucose Levels in Urine

High glucose levels in urine can be caused by medical conditions, a genetic mutation, certain medications, and pregnancy.

Keep in mind that some people with high sugar levels in their urine don’t show any symptoms. Even when caused by medical conditions, high sugar levels in the urine may go undiagnosed until the underlying condition progresses or is found during normal screening.

Hyperglycemia, Prediabetes, and Diabetes

Glycosuria can result from hyperglycemia, which is high blood sugar. Prediabetes, which occurs before Type 2 diabetes, as well as diabetes, which is a long-term condition marked by high blood sugar levels, can also trigger glycosuria.

Diabetes affects the hormone insulin and the body’s ability to store and use sugar as energy. With uncontrolled diabetes and high blood sugar levels, the kidneys aren't able to absorb all of the sugar. The kidneys then get rid of the excess sugar from the body through the urine.

While glycosuria may not cause symptoms, if you have uncontrolled diabetes or high blood sugar levels, you may experience other symptoms like:

Kidney Disease

In chronic kidney disease, which is loss of kidney functioning, or after a kidney transplant, people may have high levels of sugar in their urine. Research shows that the increased release of sugar and some essential minerals in urine is protective against the progression of chronic kidney disease in some individuals.

With chronic kidney disease, you may notice other symptoms such as:

Renal Glycosuria

In some cases, glycosuria can be caused by a change in genes that are passed down through the family. This rare hereditary condition is called renal glycosuria. This causes the kidneys to release too much glucose into the urine even when blood sugar levels are normal or low. This type of glycosuria typically doesn't have any serious symptoms.

Medications

Certain types of diabetes medications, like empagliflozin, block the kidneys from reabsorbing glucose to help lower blood sugar levels. This can lead to glycosuria.

Pregnancy

Because of changes in hormones and how the kidneys function during pregnancy, glycosuria may be found in about 50% of pregnant individuals. Often this isn't a cause for concern, but should still be discussed with your doctor.

Gestational diabetes, or high blood sugar levels during pregnancy, can also cause glycosuria. Screening for this is an important part of prenatal care. Symptoms may include feeling super thirsty and having to pee more than usual.

When Should You Seek Medical Attention for Sugar in Your Urine?

If you think you have sugar in your urine, reach out to your doctor so they can figure out the underlying cause.

However, there are some signs and symptoms that can indicate a serious illness that's related to blood sugar levels is happening. Diabetic emergencies require immediate medical care. If you or someone you know has the following symptoms, call 911 or go the hospital right away:

How Is Glycosuria Diagnosed?

Glycosuria is diagnosed by testing the amount of sugar in your urine. Other lab work may also be performed to look for possible underlying causes. 

Home Testing

A urine glucose test can be performed at home. This is done by collecting a sample of your urine and using a small device known as a urine dipstick to measure glucose levels. The dipstick will change color to indicate different levels of glucose in the sample.

If you do an at-home test, be sure to discuss the results with your healthcare provider. With conditions like diabetes or chronic kidney disease, early diagnosis is important to help slow their progression.

Healthcare Provider Exam and Tests

To test for glycosuria, your healthcare provider may order a urine analysis to check sugar levels. They may also order blood tests to check your blood sugar levels and your kidney function.

Prediabetes and diabetes are diagnosed based on the results of:

  • An A1C test, which is a blood test that examines average blood sugar levels
  • A fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test, which is a blood test that requires overnight fasting and checks for diabetes
  • An oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), which requires you to ingest a special syrup drink before your blood is taken to check how well your body processes sugar

Results signaling prediabetes are:

  • An A1C of 5.7%–6.4%
  • A fasting blood sugar of 100–125 mg/dL
  • An OGTT 2 hour blood sugar of 140 mg/dL–199 mg/dL

Diabetes is diagnosed at:

  • An A1C equal to or greater than 6.5%
  • A fasting blood sugar equal to or greater than 126 mg/dL
  • An OGTT 2 hour blood sugar greater than or equal to 200 mg/dL

What Is the Prognosis for Glycosuria?

Your outlook with glycosuria depends on what may be causing it. If there are no other conditions present, symptoms or complications will be rare.

If a condition is causing high levels of glucose in your urine, you will need to be monitored by your healthcare provider. Your doctor will create a treatment plan that works best for your needs. Getting treated as soon as possible may help reduce the chance of complications if your condition progresses.

Keep in mind that some conditions can trigger serious complications. For example, conditions associated with high blood sugar levels can lead to complications like:

  • Worsening eyesight or loss of vision
  • Poor healing wounds
  • Difficulty healing from infections
  • Nerve damage in the arms and legs, which can cause weakness, pain, or difficulty with muscle control
  • Kidney damage

Summary

Glycosuria occurs if the kidneys don't remove enough glucose before it is excreted through urine. This can be caused by medical conditions, a genetic mutation, certain medications, as well as pregnancy.

Glycosuria may be diagnosed through urine and blood tests. Your doctor may also order other specific tests based on potential underlying conditions. Treatment will vary based on each individual's specific needs.

A Word From Verywell

Glycosuria may not be cause for any concern. If you do have excess amounts of sugar in your urine, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider. They can recommend treatment options, as well as lifestyle changes that may help prevent complications. 

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Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Ashley Braun, MPH, RD
Ashley Braun, MPH, RD, is a registered dietitian and public health professional with over 5 years of experience educating people on health related topics using evidence-based information. Her experience includes educating on a wide range of conditions including diabetes, heart disease, HIV, neurological conditions, and more.