Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) indicates that the blood sugar level is too high because the body does not have enough insulin. Hyperglycemia associated with diabetes can cause vomiting, excessive hunger, thirst, rapid heart rate, vision problems, and other symptoms. Untreated hyperglycemia can lead to serious health problems.
What is hyperglycemia?
Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, occurs when blood sugar levels are too high. It happens when your body has too little insulin (the hormone that transports glucose in the blood) or when your body can’t use insulin properly. This condition is often associated with diabetes.
Hyperglycemia is a fasting blood glucose level greater than 125 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) (without eating for at least eight hours; a person with a fasting blood glucose greater than 125 mg/dL is diabetic).
A person with fasting blood sugar levels between 100 mg/dL and 125 mg/dL has impaired glucose tolerance, or prediabetes.
A person is hyperglycemic if their blood sugar level is greater than 180 mg/dL one to two hours after eating.
If you have hyperglycemia and it goes untreated for a long time, it can damage your nerves, blood vessels, tissues, and organs. Blood vessel damage increases the risk of heart attack and stroke, and nerve damage can lead to eye and kidney damage and non-healing wounds.
What are the risk factors for hyperglycemia?
The main risk factors for hyperglycemia are:
You have a family history of type 2 diabetes.
You are African American, Native American, Hispanic, or Asian American.
You are overweight.
You have high blood pressure or cholesterol.
You have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
You have a history of gestational diabetes.
Symptoms and causes
What causes hyperglycemia in people with diabetes?
The dose of insulin or diabetes medication you are taking may not be the best dose for your needs.
Your body does not use natural insulin effectively (type 2 diabetes).
The amount of carbohydrates you eat or drink does not equal the amount of insulin your body produces or the amount of insulin injected.
You are less active than usual.
Physical stress (illness, cold, flu, infection, etc.) is affecting you.
Stress (family conflict, emotional problems, school, work stress, etc.) is affecting you.
You are taking steroids for another condition.
The dawn phenomenon (the surge of hormones in the body every morning between 4 and 5 am) is affecting you.
Other possible reasons
Endocrine disorders such as Cushing’s syndrome can cause insulin resistance.
Pancreatic diseases such as pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, and cystic fibrosis.
Certain medications (diuretics, steroids, etc.).
Gestational diabetes, which occurs in 4% of pregnancies, is due to decreased sensitivity to insulin.
Surgery or trauma.
What are the symptoms of hyperglycemia?
If you have type 1 diabetes, it is very important to know the early signs of hyperglycemia. If hyperglycemia is not treated in people with type 1 diabetes, it can lead to ketoacidosis, a build-up of ketones, which are toxic acids, in the blood. This condition is a serious condition that can lead to coma or death.
The first symptoms of hyperglycemia are:
High blood sugar.
Increased thirst and/or hunger.
Frequent urination (peeing).
Additional symptoms include:
Fatigue (feeling weak and tired).
Vaginal and skin infections.
Cuts and sores that take a long time to heal.
Symptoms of ketoacidosis include:
An unusual fruity smell on the breath.
Deep breathing or hyperventilation.
Confusion and disorientation.
MANAGEMENT AND TREATMENT
How do I treat and manage hyperglycemia?
People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes can manage hyperglycemia by eating healthy, being active, and managing stress. In addition, insulin plays an important role in controlling hyperglycemia in people with type 1 diabetes, while people with type 2 diabetes require oral medications to help control hyperglycemia, and therefore insulin.
If you do not have diabetes and develop symptoms of hyperglycemia, contact your healthcare provider. You can fight hyperglycemia together.
How can I prevent hyperglycemia?
Exercise to help lower blood sugar. Work with your healthcare provider to create a daily activity plan.
Stick to your meal plan. Learn how carbohydrates affect your blood sugar and work with your diabetes care team to find the meal plan that’s best for you.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Do not smoke.