Symptoms of High Blood Sugar In Nondiabetics

Hyperglycemia—high blood sugar—is commonly associated with people who have diabetes, but it can also impact those without diabetes.

Like hyperglycemia in diabetes, the symptoms are difficult to feel and easily go unnoticed, so the condition often goes untreated. The recommended blood glucose range is 80 to 130 mg/dL, but hyperglycemia is diagnosed when levels reach above 180 mg/dL two hours after eating, although symptoms may be felt with a blood glucose level between 160 mg/dL and 180 mg/dL.

Nondiabetic hyperglycemia usually occurs after the body has undergone some type of trauma or stressful event. It usually resolves when the root of the injury or stressful event ameliorates, but this is not always the case. 

woman fatigued outside

Hinterhaus Productions / Getty Images

Frequent Symptoms

The symptoms of nondiabetic hyperglycemia are similar to those of diabetic hyperglycemia. They include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue
  • Headache

If you do not have diabetes but have risk factors for diabetes such as obesity, a family history of diabetes, or mild symptoms of hypo- or hyperglycemia you may want to consult a diabetes specialist who can perform a hemoglobin A1C test to definitively diagnose your condition. You can also check your blood sugar levels at home with a glucose monitoring kit. 

Complications

Obesity, a family history of diabetes, recent surgery, and certain medications increase your risk of complications. If nondiabetic hyperglycemia is not treated it can lead to:

  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Damage to the arteries and blood vessels, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke
  • Slow healing
  • Development of infections, by compromising your immune system

If you are feeling symptoms of hyperglycemia you may need to take insulin or some other form of blood sugar-regulating drug to control your blood sugar levels. In nondiabetic hyperglycemia, resolution of the trigger or stressor that is causing the high blood sugar spike usually results in the resolution of your hyperglycemia.

When to See a Healthcare Professional

Hyperglycemia can happen suddenly after injury or illness. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms call 911 or have someone else call for you:

  • Fever
  • Ongoing diarrhea
  • Ongoing nausea or vomiting
  • Fruity breath
  • Severe headache
  • Seizure
  • Trouble breathing or talking
  • Weakness or confusion

The aforementioned signs and symptoms can be a signal of diabetic ketoacidosis or worse, and if left untreated can be life-threatening. Fortunately, immediate recognition and treatment of these symptoms can lead to a rapid amelioration of your high blood sugar levels.

Although more research needs to be done to elucidate the long-term impacts of hyperglycemia on nondiabetic patients—especially after acute injury—one thing is clear: living a healthy lifestyle that includes eating a balanced diet and routine exercise is the best way to avoid hyperglycemia and acute complications.

To prevent hyperglycemia:

  • Exercise: Engage in routine physical activity for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. This can help lower your blood sugar when it is high and keep your blood sugar levels steady over time. Children should get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: A healthy weight can help you lower your blood sugar levels. Ask your provider to help you create a weight-loss plan if you are overweight. Together you can set manageable weight loss goals.
  • Follow a meal plan: If you have access to a dietitian they can help you make a meal plan to help lower your blood sugar level. The key is to increase your green vegetable intake while decreasing the number of carbohydrates that you eat.
  • Do not smoke: Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars not only cause lung damage, but they also make your blood sugar levels harder to control. Quitting smoking—including e-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco which still contains nicotine—can help lower your blood sugar levels in the short and long term.
  • Limit or do not drink alcohol: Alcohol can increase your blood sugar level. Ask your healthcare provider about the frequency and amount of alcohol that is safe for you to drink.

A Word From VeryWell

Sometimes you simply cannot avoid hyperglycemia. Genetic predisposition and traumatic events are out of our control, but living a healthy lifestyle that includes eating a balanced diet and routine exercise can help us avoid hyperglycemia and its many complications.

The symptoms of hyperglycemia may be vague, so monitoring how you're feeling is important. If you have a severe headache, sudden blurred vision, or notice a change in your eating and drinking patterns, seek immediate medical attention. Early diagnosis and treatment have been shown to lessen the risk of complications and poor outcomes.

Was this page helpful?
2 Sources
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.
  1. American Diabetes Association. Classification and diagnosis of diabetes: standards of medical care in diabetes—2021. Dia Care. 2021;44(Supplement 1):S15-S33. doi:10.2337/dc21-S002

  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Physical activity guidelines for Americans. Updated 2018.