Hyperglycemia

By:    Published: February 21, 2014

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Living with a condition like diabetes can be tough, especially around the holidays when so many delicious and tempting treats and desserts are being offered at parties and dinners. It may be tempting to nibble on a gingerbread man, but don't. That extra sugar, as delicious as it is, can build up in your body and lead to a condition known as hyperglycemia.

What Is Hyperglycemia?

Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, is found in people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. When glucose, or sugar, cannot enter into cells because of a lack of insulin, hyperglycemia occurs. According to WebMD, there are two different types of hyperglycemia:

  • Fasting hyperglycemia - a blood sugar level of 130 milligrams (mg) per deciliter or greater after fasting for at least eight hours.
  • Postprandial or after-meal hyperglycemia - a blood sugar level of 180 mg/dl or greater one to two hours after eating. In people without diabetes, the after-meal blood sugar level will rarely go above 140 mg/dl. Consistently high after-meal blood sugar levels mean you're at a high risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Be sure you don't confuse hyperglycemia with hypoglycemia, which is a syndrome of low blood sugar typically found in diabetics.

Symptoms

The symptoms of hyperglycemia in diabetics are:

  • Headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Increased thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Blood sugar over 180 mg/dl

If hyperglycemia is left untreated, it can lead to more serious symptoms such as:

  • Infections
  • Stomach and intestinal problems
  • Decreased vision
  • Slow-healing cuts and sores
  • Nerve damage
  • Difficulty breathing

Eventually, hyperglycemia may turn into ketoacidosis if you have type 1 diabetes, or a diabetic coma (HHNS) if you have type 2 diabetes if you don't get help for your condition.

Causes

If you have diabetes, hyperglycemia can be caused by:

  • Increase in stress
  • An illness
  • An infection
  • Surgery
  • Strenuous physical activity
  • Decrease in physical activity
  • Eating too many carbohydrates
  • Skipping or not taking insulin or medication
  • Taking drugs or steroids

Diagnosis

If you've noticed that your blood sugar level has been abnormally high, at 165 mg/dl or greater, for a week or more, then it's more than likely that you have hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia is most commonly diagnosed through a blood test or through an oral glucose tolerance test, which is also used to diagnose diabetes.

Treatment

The best way to treat hyperglycemia is to keep your blood sugar level in check. That means you have to monitor your blood sugar on a daily basis. Here are some other ways to treat hyperglycemia:

  • Adjust your insulin. To keep hyperglycemia under control, you may need to take an insulin supplement that is fast-acting and can help bring a high blood sugar level down. Your medications, if you take them, may need to be adjusted as well.
  • Stick to your meal plan. Don't stray from your diabetes diet, as hard as that may be. Make sure you don't consume too much sugar and stay away from sugary drinks likes sodas and juices.
  • Get enough exercise. Not moving enough can trigger hyperglycemia as can strenuous activity, so it's important to maintain a balance of exercise and relaxation. If ketones are present in your urine, do not exercise as this can exacerbate your condition.

If you have severe hyperglycemia that has developed into ketoacidosis or HHNS, these are some of the treatments you may need:

  • Fluid replacement - Excessive urination can leave your body dehydrated, so you may need to replace those fluids either orally or intravenously. Fluid replacement can also dilute some of the sugar that is built up in your system.
  • Electrolyte replacement - This treatment is also done intravenously and replaces the electrolytes that may be lost through lack of insulin.
  • Insulin therapy - You may need some insulin therapy if there is a build-up of ketones in your blood. Insulin can reverse the processes that cause that build up and will also be administered intravenously.

If your doctor thinks you may be at risk for an infection, he or she may prescribe antibiotics for you. Additional treatment may be needed depending on your health and the severity of your condition.

Prevention

Here are a few more tips for keeping your hyperglycemia in check:

  • Take your medications as prescribed by your doctor and don't skip it or forget to take it.
  • If you plan on adjusting your level of physical activity, check with your doctor to see if you need to adjust your medication.
  • Make sure you have friends and family members who are educated on your condition and know how to help in case of an emergency.
  • Monitor your consumption of carbohydrates.
  • Keep yourself hydrated, but stay away from alcohol.

Diabetes can be tough to deal with, never mind worrying over developing another condition such as hyperglycemia. But as long as you stick to your diet and monitor your blood sugar level, you'll keep your diabetes in check and hyperglycemia at bay.

Sources:

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