Diabetes causes a number of symptoms, but not all people diagnosed with diabetes experience the same symptoms or issues. However, one common symptom that indicates abnormal blood sugar levels in the body is the presence of sugar or glucose in urine.
That doesn’t mean that sugar in the urine always indicates that you have diabetes. Knowing the importance of blood sugar (glucose) levels in the body and paying attention to how you’re feeling is the first step toward maintaining overall health and wellness.
What is glycosuria and what causes it?
Glycosuria is defined as a condition where a person has an abnormally high amount of sugar in their urine. This is not to be confused with a person experiencing glycuresis – the excretion of large amounts of sugar in urine following excessive carbohydrate intake.
Insulin deficiencies such as diabetes mellitus have several impacts on the body’s blood and urine levels. In cases of less-than-optimal levels of the hormone insulin within the body, blood glucose levels rise. If not treated, these rising levels might result in hyperglycemia – higher than normal levels of glucose (blood sugar) in the blood.
As levels of glucose in the blood rise, the kidneys attempt to get rid of the excess by ‘pulling’ water from organs and cellular structures into the kidneys. This is intended to aid with filtration and elimination through urination. In cases of glycosuria, the kidneys can’t keep up with the filtering process, so excess glucose is flushed into urine. Because this struggle by the kidneys to filter requires fluids, which it pulls from other body tissues, a person may feel more frequent urges to urinate. As the body grows dehydrated from the frequent urination, a person will experience increased thirst.
Does sugar in my urine mean I have diabetes?
Under normal circumstances, the body excretes glucose in urine only when those levels in the blood are very high. In a healthy individual, the kidneys filter glucose from the blood, where it is reabsorbed into the blood supply. A number of factors play a role in the kidney’s inability to properly filter glucose from the blood, leading to increase of blood sugar in the urine.
The presence of sugar in your urine doesn’t always indicate that you have Type I or II diabetes. For example, pregnant women might have higher than normal blood sugar levels in urine due to an often temporary condition known as gestational diabetes.
According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, a person with a renal or kidney disorder may also test with higher than normal levels of sugar in their urine due to abnormal or insufficient kidney function. A person who has undergone a kidney transplant or has a vitamin D deficiency may develop Franconi’s syndrome, as can a person diagnosed with a genetic or hereditary disorder. This syndrome is also associated with excess levels of some amino acids, phosphates, potassium, and sodium in the urine.
Renal glycosuria is a condition that also causes excretion of glucose found in the urine even if blood glucose levels are normal or even lower than normal. This is caused by defects in the renal tubules inside the kidney that decrease their ability to reabsorb the filtered glucose. This condition may be hereditary and doesn’t usually have symptoms. Renal glycosuria doesn’t trigger serious consequences and no treatment is needed.
However, based on individual case scenarios, renal glycosuria may be an early sign of diabetes mellitus.
Symptoms of glycosuria
One of the primary symptoms of glycosuria is increased and frequent urination. This is a result of the kidneys continuing to pull water from the blood to get rid of the excess glucose. This leads to dehydration and an ever-increasing sense that you’re just not drinking enough water.
Other symptoms also occur with decreased insulin levels in the body and are associated with diabetes mellitus. Common symptoms include ‘acetone’ breath, increased respirations and depth of breathing. Hormones released in the body as a result of higher than normal blood glucose levels may also trigger feelings of anxiety, tremors, and weakness.
A glucose urine test is an easy way to obtain a diagnosis.
About glucose urine tests
Glucose urine tests are given to a patient to measure how much glucose (blood sugar) is found in a urine sample. Finding glucose in urine is not normal and might indicate that your blood sugar levels are high and your body is trying to flush some of it out. The glucose urine test is also known as a urine sugar test or a glucosuria or glycosuria test. The test is simple, non-invasive, and painless.
Preparing for a glucose urine test
The glucose urine test itself is no different than any other urine test. You pee into a cup. Your doctor will provide specific information regarding preparation based on your situation but in most cases, you don’t have to make any special preparations. You might want to avoid urinating before your appointment so that you have an ample sample of urine to provide.
If you’re on medications, let your doctor know but don’t stop taking your meds until you receive instructions from your physician.
What other tests help confirm a diabetes diagnosis
While a glucose urine test may be used to diagnose diabetes, other tests may also be recommended to confirm diagnosis. They involve blood draws. Excess glucose in the blood ‘sticks’ to hemoglobin and can be measured in blood samples. For example:
- Fasting plasma glucose test – known as the FPG test, this diagnostic method is done at a specific time of day, usually morning, following an 8-hour fasting period.
- A1C test – this blood test averages your blood sugar levels over a three-month period and is commonly used to diagnose prediabetes or Type II diabetes. It’s also effective for diabetes management.
- Random plasma glucose test - also known as a RPG test, this one test is done at any time, fasting or not, on a person experiencing symptoms of diabetes.
How do I reduce the risk of glycosuria?
Reduce your risk of glycosuria by controlling your diabetes. A person at risk of diabetes (and those already diagnosed) can make positive changes through diet (plenty of fresh veggies and fruits, fiber, and whole grains), exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight.
For pre-diabetics or diabetics, test and track blood sugar levels as instructed. Once blood sugar levels are regulated and maintained, a person’s risk for glycosuria drastically decreases.