Hyperglycemia or high blood glucose is a condition that occurs when you have too much sugar in the blood. It mostly occurs if there is not enough insulin in the body. It can also occur when the body doesn’t use insulin the right way. It can lead to vomiting, excessive thirst, and hunger. Other symptoms include vision problems and a rapid heartbeat. Insulin plays an important role in transporting glucose. Hyperglycemia occurs when blood glucose is greater than 125 mg/dL. Hyperglycemia affects most people with diabetes. Factors that lead to hyperglycemia in diabetic people include food and exercise choices. If you suspect that you have hyperglycemia, seek treatment immediately. If left untreated the condition can lead to serious complications like a diabetic coma. In severe cases, it may even cause kidney, eye, nerves, and heart damage.
Types of Hyperglycemia
There are two types of hyperglycemia. They include;
This occurs in diabetic patients. Fasting hyperglycemia is diagnosed if the blood sugar is greater than 130 mg/dL. The condition occurs when you haven’t eaten or drank anything for more than eight hours.
Also known as postprandial hyperglycemia, it occurs when blood glucose is higher than 180 mg/dL. This is usually two hours after eating. It’s rare for a non-diabetic person to have a blood glucose level of over 140 mg/dL after eating unless the meal was large.
When blood sugar levels keep rising from time to time, blood vessels, nerves, and even certain organs may suffer damage. For people with type 1 diabetes, the risk of ketoacidosis increases. Ketoacidosis is a condition where acids build up in the blood. People with type 2 diabetes or those at risk can develop life-threatening conditions like hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome when blood sugar levels rise.
Symptoms of Hyperglycemia
Usually, hyperglycemia causes no symptoms. Symptoms only occur when blood sugar levels rise above 180 to 200 mg/dL. The symptoms develop slowly over a few days or weeks. As such, most people don’t seek treatment until it’s too late. People with type 2 diabetes don’t show any symptoms at all even when blood sugar levels rise. Recognizing symptoms as soon as they occur is the best way of preventing serious complications. These may include;
- Increased thirst and hunger
- Blurred vision
- Frequent urination
- Headaches and fatigue
When hyperglycemia goes untreated for long, toxic acids known as ketones build up in the urine and blood. Symptoms will include;
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fruity breath
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue and general body weakness
- Dry mouth
- Abdominal pain
- Coma in very severe cases
Diagnosis of Hyperglycemia
To diagnose hyperglycemia the doctor will conduct several tests. They include blood sugar tests like the A1C test, fasting plasma glucose test, and fructosamine test. Other tests include glucose monitoring and oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). To confirm the diagnosis, the doctor needs to conduct two different tests.
Fasting blood glucose test (FBG):
It is also known as the fasting plasma glucose test (FPG). The test helps measure blood glucose levels. This can help diagnose conditions like impaired glucose tolerance and diabetes. It can also detect high blood sugar in non-diabetic people.
Referred to as hemoglobin A1C or glycated hemoglobin, the test assesses the average blood sugar levels. This is over the past two or three months.
This one is like the A1C test. The only difference is that it measures average blood sugar levels over the past two to three weeks. It is also used to detect blood sugar levels in people with sickle cell anemia.
Oral glucose tolerance test:
The test helps measure the body’s ability to remove glucose from the bloodstream. The test can diagnose conditions like diabetes, prediabetes, and gestational diabetes.
How to Treat Hyperglycemia
If you have hyperglycemia, treatment options are available. They include the following;
Lifestyle changes: Drinking more water can help clear excess sugar from the blood. At the same time, changing your diet plus the amount you eat can help ease hyperglycemic symptoms. Other lifestyle changes you can make include exercising more. Working out can help lower blood glucose. However, the same can increase your blood sugar levels if you have certain conditions. Talk to your doctor about the right kind of workout for you.
Blood sugar monitoring: If you are diabetic, you have to track your glucose levels. Blood sugar monitoring can help detect hyperglycemia before it causes any complications.
Exercising caution: For those with type 1 diabetes and high blood glucose, you may need to test for ketones in your urine. If ketones are present in urine, do not engage in any form of exercise. If you have type 2 diabetes and your blood sugar levels are high, ensure you hydrate more.
Switching medications: If you are diabetic, the doctor may change the amount of your medication. They may also ask you to change when you take them.
How to Live With and Manage Hyperglycemia
If you have diabetes, you may have to deal with hyperglycemia from time to time. The only thing you need to make sure of is that you seek treatment as fast as possible. If left untreated the condition can lead to life-threatening complications. Here are ways you can manage hyperglycemia;
- Exercise regularly to lower your blood glucose levels. Talk to your doctor first about the kind of exercises you should engage in.
- Follow the meal plan recommended by your doctor or dietitian.
- Maintain healthy body weight.
- Avoid or quit smoking.
- Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol tends to raise blood sugar to sometimes dangerous levels.
- What are the main risk factors for high blood sugar? You are at risk of hyperglycemia if you are overweight, have a family history of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol. You are also at risk if you have had gestational diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome.
- What happens if I don’t seek treatment for hyperglycemia? Untreated hyperglycemia can lead to long-term complications like nerve damage and cardiovascular disease. Others include kidney damage, leg ulcers, infections, eye damage, and gum and teeth infections.
Healthier Me Today 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, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!