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What are Common Causes of High Blood Sugar Levels?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1004291 — On Jan 08, 2021

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?

By BambooForest — On Nov 08, 2010

@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.

By Catapult — On Nov 08, 2010

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.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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