Worst Case Scenario: I Forgot to Check My Blood Sugar

Worst Case Scenario: I Forgot to Check My Blood Sugar

Diabetes doesn’t always have symptoms, so checking your glucose levels is important. But what if you forget?

Blood sugar levels may indicate how your body is reacting to diet and exercise or your current diabetes medication, and can identify highs and lows in your blood sugar.

Testing schedules are usually established by healthcare providers, and often include testing before and after meals, before and after exercise and before bed. In a perfect world, you would check your glucose levels as often as your healthcare provider recommends, but sometimes, in a rush to eat or sleep, you may skip a blood sugar reading. What does that mean for your diabetes treatment and management?  

Forgetting to test your blood sugar once won’t derail all of your diabetes management efforts, but forgetting frequently can skew your blood sugar numbers. For people regularly taking oral medications for type 2 diabetes, healthcare providers use these numbers to determine the most effective, accurate ways to manage your diabetes. Inaccurate readings may lead to inaccurate management methods.

Not knowing your glucose levels also increases the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) for those using insulin. It’s important to know the physical signs of each condition in case you don’t have access to a blood sugar meter.

Hypoglycemia: Hypoglycemia, or abnormally low blood sugar, can be dangerous. The drop in blood sugar takes place when a person with diabetes skips a meal, exercises more vigorously than usual, drinks alcohol (especially without food) or takes too much insulin. If you haven’t tested your blood sugar, and think you might have low blood sugar, look for symptoms like lightheadedness, sweating, chills, clamminess, shakiness, hunger and anxiousness, blurred vision or a headache. The remedy? Consuming 15 to 20 grams of glucose or simple carbohydrates, such as a half-cup of fruit juice, five hard candies or 4 glucose tablets.

If left untreated, glucose levels can drop to devastating lows, causing seizures, loss of consciousness or an inability to swallow.  If this occurs, a family member, friend or bystander should call for help or administer a glucagon injection, a prescription hormone that stimulates the liver to release glucose into the body.

Hyperglycemia: Hyperglycemia, or very high blood sugar, is a condition that can be caused by skipping doses of your diabetes medication, eating too much or not getting enough exercise. Stress and illness can also cause a spike in glucose. A surge in high blood sugar is typically characterized by extreme thirst, frequent urination, drowsiness and blurred vision. Hyperglycemia is a chronic condition that, if left chronically untreated, can cause problems like heart disease, kidney disease and permanent vision problems. If you’re experiencing signs of hyperglycemia, contact your healthcare provider right away, so the condition can be treated.

An immediate risk of high blood sugar is ketoacidosis, where waste products build up in the bloodstream, causing confusion, loss of consciousness and even death. Ketoacidosis is an emergency that needs immediate medical attention.

Testing can be especially important for people with hypoglycemia unawareness. Individuals with hypoglycemia unawareness don’t experience any symptoms of low blood sugar, so testing glucose levels is the only way to determine a drop. Hyperglycemia doesn’t typically cause symptoms until blood sugar levels reach extremely high levels, but some people may not experience symptoms at all. A lack of symptoms does not mean damage isn’t being done, so testing glucose levels is the most reliable way to determine a spike.

Medically reviewed in May 2018.

How to Give Yourself an Insulin Injection
How to Give Yourself an Insulin Injection
It’s natural to feel anxious about giving yourself insulin injections, particularly if you’re not a fan of needles. But keep in mind: Insulin is injec...
Read More
How can I keep my blood sugar levels stable?
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MDDr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Sugar and refined carbohydrates will cause a spike in your blood sugar, which is followed by a crash...
More Answers
9 Keys to Preventing and Treating Diabetic Foot Issues
9 Keys to Preventing and Treating Diabetic Foot Issues9 Keys to Preventing and Treating Diabetic Foot Issues9 Keys to Preventing and Treating Diabetic Foot Issues9 Keys to Preventing and Treating Diabetic Foot Issues
Being proactive can help keep your feet healthy.
Start Slideshow
Will There Be a Cure for Diabetes?
Will There Be a Cure for Diabetes?