High Blood Sugar: Common Diabetes Complication

Diabetes Guide




What Is Hyperglycemia?
Ketoacidosis Explained
What Are The Symptoms Of Hyperglycemia?
What Causes Hyperglycemia?
How Is It Diagnosed?
How Is Hyperglycemia Treated?

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Diabetes Guide

What Is Hyperglycemia?

Hyperglycemia is a condition characterized by abnormally high levels of sugar (glucose) in the blood. It is the main diagnostic symptom of diabetes. It causes excessive thirst and frequent urination. If you have these symptoms, ask your doctor to perform a blood test. You may have diabetes. All diabetics experience hyperglycemia from time to time. It is one of the leading causes of diabetes complications and causes long-term tissue damage. Extremely high levels of hyperglycemia, can develop into a dangerous condition called ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is more common in people with type 1 diabetes after the age of 40. [Compare with hypoglycemia - abnormally low blood sugar].

Related Questions

What is a normal blood sugar count?
Are there any home tests for diabetes?

Ketoacidosis Explained

Ketoacidosis occurs when there is not enough insulin in the body. Insulin 'instructs' the cells in the body to use glucose as a source of energy. In the absence of insulin the cells start to burn fat as an energy source. The process of burning fat creates ketones, excessive levels of which cause acid to build up in the blood and urine. Ketones in the urine is a sign that your diabetes is out of control. High levels will poison your system and lead to coma and even death. Ketoacidosis is rare in people with type 2 diabetes because they nearly always have some insulin in their body - their body may just not be very efficient at using it. Fortunately, with the advance of technology and glucose self monitoring, ketoacidosis is becoming much rarer, even in type 1 diabetics. Today, if it does occur, it is more likely to happen to a diabetic who relies on automatic insulin dosing - for example, where an insulin pump which pushes insulin when required without the patient necessarily being aware of it, fails to work. If the machine fails, insulin delivery stops and glucose levels quickly rise. Ketoacidosis could develop if you did not notice the symptoms fast enough.

What Are The Symptoms Of Hyperglycemia?

The signs and symptoms include:-

• Frequent urination (polyuria)
• Excessive thirst
• High blood sugar
• High levels of sugar found in the urine

The symptoms of ketoacidosis, which is life-threatening and needs immediate treatment include:-

• Rapid breathing: Known as kussmaul breathing. Your body is attempting to blow off acid through the lungs.
• Breath smells fruity (due to acetone)
• Nausea and vomiting (due to the buildup of acids in the body)
• Very dry mouth
• Weakness, because your muscle tissues cannot get fuel (glucose).

What Causes Hyperglycemia?

Several things can cause the condition:-

Type 1 diabetics: You have not given yourself enough insulin.
Type 2 diabetics: Your body may have enough insulin but it is not being used efficiently (insulin resistance).
• You have eaten more or exercised less than planned.
• Stress - social stress dealing with people or from illness, flus or colds.
• Pregnancy.
• Monthly menstrual periods.

How Is It Diagnosed?

Part of any diabetes management program is to regularly monitor your own blood glucose with a glucose monitor. Your doctor will advise you on what level you should aim for. Checking your blood sugar regularly will help you detect hyperglycemia and associated problems. If you are not diabetic, but suspect you may have high blood sugar, your doctor can perform a blood test to check (read diagnosing diabetes for more information).

How Is Hyperglycemia Treated?

If you are diabetic and your blood glucose levels are rising, you can take more insulin (in accordance with your doctor's instructions), or you can adjust your diet and exercise level. Exercising will speed up the rate at which glucose is removed from your blood. Cutting down on the amount of food you eat will help reduce blood sugar levels. You may need to work with a dietician to put a personal diabetes diet plan together to prevent recurrent spikes in the future. If your blood glucose levels continue to rise after treatment, and you start to feel unwell, seek immediate medical attention.

Warning: If your blood glucose is above 240 mg/dl, check your urine for ketones. Never, exercise if you have ketones in your urine. It is only likely to higher your blood glucose.

Medical Identification
Always wear a diabetes medical ID bracelet or chain, particularly if you are insulin dependent. In the event of a severe hypoglycemic episode or accidental emergency (such as a car crash), it will provide vital information to healthcare workers on your health status.

Helping someone else: What to do in case of diabetic coma

Fasting hyperglycemia: High level of blood sugar after you have fasted for at least 8 hours.
Postprandial hyperglycemia: High blood sugar levels 1 to 2 hours after eating.

  Related Articles on Hyperglycemia

For more on diabetes, see the following:

Insulin pens: Making injecting insulin easier.
Hemoglobin A1C Test: Screening for diabetes.
Diabetes tests: Tests for diabetics.

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