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“What does a high blood sugar feel like?”

January 17, 2012

I get that question ALL.THE.TIME.

From my parents, siblings, friends, babysittee’s, random people in classes, random people all together. It’s something I’ve never fully been able to express. It probably never will be.

But I’ve been considering this post for a LOOOONG time now (like starting of this blog long) and I finally gathered enough of my own information to tell you what a high blood sugar feels like for myself.

Forget all the textbook symptoms, those honestly dont compare to how I feel when I’m 270+ (thats when most of my symptoms appear). I mean yes, there’s the extreme thirst and constant need to pee but for me its much more than that.

So what does it feel like?

– “My face feels tight“: This is actually what I tell my friends a lot when they ask how I feel when I am experiencing a high blood sugar near them. It literally feels like my face is getting stretched really tight.

– “My mouth feels cloudy“: Its not so much dry for me, its just that it feels like theres hot air in my mouth during those times. You know how you can sometimes feel you have a fever just by the heat your mouth is producing? That’s almost similar to this, although no fever is involved.

– “My legs HURT”: I’m not saying its just a walk it off kind of situation, if my blood sugar is high, my legs feel as if they had just ran ten miles, non stop. It hurts to move them. They feel very heavy to me as well.

– “My body feels heavy”: Actually, its not just my legs; my head, arms, hands. They all feel like they suddenly got ten times heavier.

– “I’m so tired”: Okay, so THIS one is textbook. BUT, It needs more explaining, for me at least. It’s not just like a “I need to sit down and relax” kind of tired, its a “get me to a bed this instant before I fall asleep on this sidewalk” kind of tired. Its sudden as well, which is scary, because it can come in right after I dose or before any other symptoms come; and sometimes when the latter happens, I (shamefully) don’t realize what might come next and fall asleep only to wake up 20 minutes later feeling AWFUL.

“I crave fruit”: My breath smelling fruity (when ketones are present) isnt the only symptom here related to fruit. I’ve always assumed this is just because of the natural juices in fruit that will temporarily relieve the thirst symptom. Of course, I cant eat those carb-y fruits, no matter how bad the craving is.

In severe cases: 

– “My stomach feels like it flipped inside”: It doesnt necessarily hurt, but it does feel very weird. Of course, I get nauseous and can’t eat anything.

And here’s the strangest one to explain: “The inside of my head feels hot”: Okay, you might be thinking, What the hell is this girl on besides insulin? But it really feels like theres hot pressure inside my head; and maybe thats what make my head feel heavier. Its actually more behind my face than anywhere else; but it causes my face to feel tingly and theres an immense amount of pressure, probably what makes my face feel stretched but both or only one of those symptoms can happen during a high.

So you might still be going, What does a high blood sugar feel like? because these are all very strange symptoms, and some of you diabetics may not get these symptoms and explain yours differently and other people (diabetics and non-diabetics) might not understand what I’m trying to explain here; but thats what I try and stress to people; having a high blood sugar is difficult to explain. When I’m with someone and I say “hold on, I have to test, I feel really high” its hard for them not to question WHAT it is that I’m feeling.

And I dont mind the question, at all, its just I never had a real answer. So I hope this helps those in the future who wonder, beyond textbook analysis, what a high blood sugar reading may feel like.

PLEASE keep in mind; it is important that you know I did not deliberately get my blood sugar higher to mark this information down, and neither should you if you are a diabetic reading this. I simply took the moments where diabetes was being a pain in the tuchus and used that (while treating) to let those who do not have diabetes know what I feel and what other diabetics MAY feel (although I cant speak for them). I don’t think its worth a hospital trip or worse to get one blog post out. 

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. Sarah permalink
    January 17, 2012 8:47 pm

    Thank you for this information. Being a mom to a 6 yr old it is often hard for her to put to words what a high feels like if she even feels it. I really appreciate the insight you put forth!!

  2. January 17, 2012 9:01 pm

    I also have a 6 year old and wonder what she feels. Of course, it makes me feel sad that she has to feel any of these symptoms…but it makes me motivated to try to minimize them.

  3. Rich Jackson permalink
    May 10, 2012 12:18 am

    Thank you very much for your information. I am also a diabetic and have had the feeling twice of being so tired I couldn’t stay awake if I wanted. My wife thought I took pain medication because of the way I was acting. After sleeping for an hour or so I woke up not really knowing what took place or why. Thanks again for your post.

  4. July 27, 2012 1:08 am

    Very good way of putting it :)
    It is amazing how each of us all get our own different symptoms also

  5. amber permalink
    July 29, 2012 11:12 pm

    Thanks for this info! I was recently diagnosed with diabetes and have trouble explaining all of my symptoms to my doctor and husband. I feel comforted that I’m not crazy and someone can relate. I have felt every single one of these symptoms you explained…but they’re not what you usually read about on websites. I SOOO appreciated this. Very detailed and nice job with the writing :)

    • Naomi permalink*
      July 29, 2012 11:41 pm

      thank you so much!!!! so happy to help! I always had trouble explaining to Non PWD’s what I feel whenever I’m high (or low) but thank you for letting me know I’m not the only one that feels these things!

  6. Amy permalink
    October 1, 2012 2:54 pm

    Thank you so much for your info. I’m trying to get inside my dogs brain as to how he is feeling with his new diagnosis. His glucose today was 646. I hoping he pulls through this life threatening discovery. Increased insulin and praying my dog MOE. Will be ok.

    • Naomi permalink*
      October 11, 2012 1:56 am

      my thoughts to you and Moe, hope he’s doing better!

  7. Sharon permalink
    October 6, 2012 12:48 am

    This is so me…..this is what I’ve been saying….don’t think my doctor gets it. I think it is important to be in tune with your body….kind of an internal glucose meter. Thanks fir posting…..lets us know we are not alone.

  8. December 16, 2012 7:25 pm

    You pretty much nailed it. I was thirsty like I wanted some ice water or what ever I could get frozen to drink for 6 day and my eye site on the 6th day went all blurry and I could not think at all with the dang ringing in my ear with all of the other stuff you mention. Luck for me I went to my doctor after I told him of my symptoms. He said I had all the signs of diabetes, I said WHAT to him, 3 month ago I was normal from my blood test Well the next day I get a call(on Saturday) and was told I am now a full blown dietetic with 654 glucose reading. The on call doctor told me to go to the nearest out patient clinic or Er . Hate ER so I went to the out patient had fluids stuck in me and was shown how to give myself insulin. Now I got to figure out what happen in the last month that caused this Took my first insulin shot yesterday. and my blood sugar still reads 454 at 6 am this morning. Gave myself my first insulin shot. PS I have hated needles all my life.

    • Naomi permalink*
      December 16, 2012 11:03 pm

      New diagnosis can be hard, I’m sorry you’re going through this! I and many others (known as the Diabetes Online Community, or DOC for short) are always here for support. Even though I met these people 16 or so years after my own diagnosis, they have played a big part in me wanting to care better for myself and having the strength to do so. If you’re interested, I’d be happy to help introduce you to the community.

      One thing that’s always hard to understand at first diagnosis, and even sometimes throughout life, is “why me?” and “what did I do?”… it’s important that you understand we don’t know yet why our pancreas’ just “decide” to stop working. I know right now you want to believe anything and everything you read on the internet and other resources; but it’s really important that you don’t. There are some resources I would be happy to supply you with.

      All my best,

  9. Jason Lewis permalink
    February 18, 2013 8:52 pm

    Spot on. I know exactly where you are coming from. I find it so difficult to explain diabetes to people, especially when they don’t understand when you sometimes need to be left alone to sort yourself out. I’ve been diabetic since 2006 and being a chef still sometimes find it hard to keep my sugars at a normal level. When they are high I find that all my muscles seem to go tight and I become very agitated. It’s great to hear about other diabetics in the same boat as I am.
    Goodwood, England

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