Sugar in Urine

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What is sugar in urine?

Sugar (glucose) is usually present in the urine at very low levels or not at all. Abnormally high amounts of sugar in the urine, known as glycosuria, are usually the result of high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar usually occurs in diabetes, especially when untreated.

Normally, when blood is filtered in the kidneys, some sugar remains in the fluid that will later become urine. If the level of blood sugar is low, as is normally the case, the body can reabsorb the sugar from this fluid before it leaves the kidney to be excreted as urine. When the blood sugar is high, there is too much sugar in the fluid leaving the kidney to be reabsorbed, so some sugar passes into the urine.

Sugar in the urine can be detected in the laboratory or is easy to detect at home with a urine dipstick test. Because sugar in the urine is associated with high blood sugar and diabetes, it is important to consult a physician if you suspect you have sugar in your urine. Sugar in the urine is often accompanied by other symptoms of diabetes, including fatigue, unexplained weight loss, excessive thirst or hunger, and frequent urination.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have sugar in the urine along with more serious symptoms, including the inability to think clearly.

Seek prompt medical care if your sugar in the urine is persistent or causes you concern.

What other symptoms might occur with sugar in urine?

Sugar in the urine may occur with a variety of other symptoms, most commonly those associated with diabetes.

Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

In some cases, sugar in the urine may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have sugar in the urine along with other serious symptoms including:

Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

In some cases, sugar in the urine may occur with other symptoms that might indicate a serious condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have sugar in the urine along with other serious symptoms including:

  • Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Seizure

What causes sugar in urine?

Sugar in the urine is usually caused by prediabetes or diabetes, which results in high blood sugar levels, especially when untreated.

Common causes of sugar in the urine

Sugar in the urine may be caused by several common conditions including:

  • Diabetes (chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to use sugar for energy)

  • Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels)

  • Prediabetes (abnormal glucose levels that do not fully meet the criteria for the diagnosis of diabetes)

Rare causes of sugar in the urine

Sugar in the urine can also be caused by conditions that are not related to high levels of sugar in the blood including:

  • Benign glycosuria, a condition in which the filtering mechanism of the kidneys allows sugar to pass through into the urine. This type of glycosuria usually has no symptoms and is often an inherited trait.

  • Kidney transplant

  • Nephrotic syndrome

  • Pregnancy

Serious or life-threatening causes of sugar in the urine

In some cases, sugar in the urine may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Inadequate therapy for diabetes, with severely elevated blood sugar levels

  • Uncontrolled diabetes, with severely elevated blood sugar levels

Questions for diagnosing the cause of sugar in the urine

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to sugar in your urine including:

  • How long have you noticed sugar in your urine?

  • Do you have a family history of diabetes?

  • What other symptoms do you have?

  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of sugar in urine?

Sugar in the urine, as a sign of high blood sugar, may be associated with potentially life-threatening complications. Because sugar in the urine can be caused by diabetes, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Dec 5
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Glucosuria. Bookshelf: U.S. National Library of Medicine. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK245/
  2. Diabetes overview. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC). http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/overview/
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