What are Common Causes of High Blood Sugar Levels?

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

There are two primary causes of high blood sugar levels; both causes involve insulin, which is a hormone produced by the pancreas. When the body does not produce enough insulin, the result is high blood sugar. This problem may also occur, however, when the body does produce insulin, but the cells of the body fail to respond to it appropriately. Often, high blood sugar levels occur when a person has a serious medical condition called diabetes. If left untreated, this condition can have devastating health effects.

Diet and some medications affect blood sugar levels.
Diet and some medications affect blood sugar levels.

The official medical term for high blood sugar is hyperglycemia. In many cases, high blood sugar levels are caused by a problem with a hormone called insulin. An organ called the pancreas has the job of secreting insulin, which works to facilitate the movement of blood sugar from a person’s blood into his cells. This function is critical for the health of the body, as blood sugar is needed for energy. When insulin isn’t released properly or the body fails to respond to it as it should, the result is high blood sugar.

Diabetics monitor blood sugar levels to help prevent hyperglycemia.
Diabetics monitor blood sugar levels to help prevent hyperglycemia.

Some people have a condition called type 1 diabetes. This condition occurs when the pancreas doesn’t secrete enough insulin. Without the proper amount of insulin to facilitate the entrance of blood sugar into the cells of the body, blood sugar is allowed to build up in the bloodstream.

High blood sugar levels may be the result of eating too many carbohydrates or sugar-rich foods.
High blood sugar levels may be the result of eating too many carbohydrates or sugar-rich foods.

There is also another type of diabetes people can develop, which is referred to as type 2 diabetes. This form develops when the body does produce insulin as it should. With this type of diabetes, however, the cells of the body are resistant to the insulin the pancreas produces. As such, it is not used properly, and the result is high blood sugar.

If the pancreas fails to properly produce insulin, blood glucose levels will rise.
If the pancreas fails to properly produce insulin, blood glucose levels will rise.

It is possible for a person to have high blood sugar and be unaware of it. Short-term high blood sugar levels may not cause obvious problems for the body, but it can be devastating in the long term. When a person has untreated or poorly managed diabetes, the result can be damage to the blood vessels and an increase risk of heart attack and stroke. A person with diabetes may also be at an increased risk of developing kidney disease, nerve disease, and even blindness.

Fortunately, there are ways to treat high blood sugar and prevent many of its devastating effects. They include medicine, insulin shots, a healthy diet, and weight control. The treatment plan for dealing with diabetes depends on the type a person has and its severity.

It is also important to note that high blood sugar levels can develop in people who do not have diabetes. Certain conditions and medications may cause it. For example, it may develop in relation to a condition called bulimia. Sometimes people also have higher-than-normal blood sugar levels while they are taking steroids.

Untreated high blood sugar levels can lead to damaged blood vessels.
Untreated high blood sugar levels can lead to damaged blood vessels.
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison

Nicole’s thirst for knowledge inspired her to become a wiseGEEK writer, and she focuses primarily on topics such as homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. When not writing or spending time with her four children, Nicole enjoys reading, camping, and going to the beach.

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Discussion Comments

anon1004291

My glucose level tested at 169 mg/dl today. The test was ordered because I am taking prednisone. It appears I will be taking prednisone for 11 more months. What can I do during my prednisone treatment to prevent the onset of permanent diabetes?

BambooForest

@Catapult, for that reason many health care professionals encourage everyone to be aware of what affects their blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels in children are especially becoming a concern in the US, as they can lead to illness, obesity, and diabetes at a much earlier age than was believed possible until fairly recently.

Catapult

When I first learned about diabetes, I was led to believe diabetics always suffered from low sugar levels. Of course, the reality is that diabetes is an inability to regulate blood sugar at all, and in fact constant high blood sugar levels are now believed to be a factor in causing type 2 diabetes.

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