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The cause of diabetes, regardless of the type, is having too much glucose circulating in the bloodstream. However, the reason your blood glucose levels are high differs depending on the type of diabetes.

  • Causes of Type 1 diabetes: This is an immune system disease. Your body attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in your pancreas. Without insulin to allow glucose to enter your cells, glucose builds up in your bloodstream. Genes may also play a role in some patients. Also, a virus may trigger an immune system attack.
  • Cause of Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes: The body’s cells do not allow insulin to work as it should to let glucose into its cells. The body’s cells have become resistant to insulin. The pancreas cannot keep up and make enough insulin to overcome this resistance. Glucose levels rise in the bloodstream.
  • Gestational diabetes: Hormones produced by the placenta during your pregnancy make the body’s cells more resistant to insulin. The pancreas cannot make enough insulin to overcome this resistance. Too much glucose remains in your bloodstream.

What is a blood sugar spike?

A blood sugar spike happens when glucose builds up in the bloodstream and your blood sugar levels increase. This may happen after eating.

It is important to know the early symptoms of high blood sugar or hyperglycemia. Early testing and treatment can help prevent more severe symptoms.

Early signs of high blood sugar can include:

  • feeling thirsty
  • having a very dry mouth
  • urinating frequently
  • having blurred vision

If you suspect that you have high blood sugar, you can perform a finger stick to check your level.

Exercising and drinking water after eating, particularly if you have consumed a lot of starchy carbs, can help lower your blood sugar.

If your blood sugar stays elevated for too long, you may develop diabetic ketoacidosis.

Ketoacidosis and ketosis

If high blood sugar levels go untreated for too long, glucose will build up in your bloodstream and your cells will be starved for fuel. Your cells will use fat for fuel instead.

When your cells use fat instead of glucose, the process produces a byproduct called ketones:

  • People with diabetes can develop diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), a potentially deadly condition that causes the blood to become too acidic. Because of poorly functioning insulin in people with diabetes, ketone levels are not kept in check and can rise to dangerous levels very quickly. DKA can result in diabetic coma or death.
  • People without diabetes can tolerate certain levels of ketones in the blood. This state is known as ketosis. They do not go on to develop ketoacidosis because their bodies are still able to use glucose and insulin properly. Properly functioning insulin helps keep the body’s ketone levels stable.

Signs and symptoms of DKA

DKA is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. Seek emergency medical attention if you experience any of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Fruity-smelling breath or sweat
  • nausea and vomiting
  • severe dry mouth
  • trouble breathing
  • weakness
  • pain in the abdominal area
  • confusion
  • coma

How to manage a blood sugar spike

  • The best way to manage high blood sugar is to check your blood sugar and take your medication as instructed. If you frequently experience blood sugar spikes, your doctor may change your medication routine.
  • You can also lower your blood sugar by exercising. 
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