What is hyperglycemia?
High blood glucose, or hyperglycemia,
can cause major health complications in people with diabetes over time.
Several factors can contribute to hyperglycemia, including eating more
carbohydrates than normal and being less physically active than normal.
Regular blood sugar testing is crucial for people with
diabetes, because many people do not feel the symptoms of high blood sugar.
What are the symptoms of hyperglycemia?
Short-term symptoms of high blood sugar include:
- excessive thirst
- excessive urination
- increased urination at night
- blurry vision
- sores that won’t heal
If you experience symptoms of hyperglycemia, it’s important
that you check your blood glucose levels. Untreated high blood sugar can lead
to chronic complications, such as eye, kidney, or heart disease or nerve
The symptoms listed above can develop over several days or
weeks. The longer the condition is left untreated, the more severe the problem
may become. Generally, blood glucose levels greater than 180 mg/dL after meals
— or over 130 mg/dL before eating — are considered high. Be sure to check with your doctor to learn
your blood sugar targets.
What causes hyperglycemia?
A number of conditions or factors can contribute to
- eating more carbohydrates
- being less physically active
- being ill or having an
- experiencing high levels of
- not getting the right dosage
of glucose-lowering medication
How is hyperglycemia treated?
There are several treatment methods available for
An important part of managing your diabetes is checking your
blood glucose level often. You should then record that number in a notebook,
blood glucose log, or blood sugar tracking app so you and your doctor can
monitor your treatment plan. Knowing when your blood glucose levels are getting
out of your target range can help you get blood sugar back under control before
more significant problems arise.
Exercise is one of the best and most effective ways to keep
your blood glucose levels where they should be and lower them if they get too
high. If you are on medications that increase insulin, be sure to talk to your doctor
to determine the best times to exercise. If you have complications such as
nerve or eye damage, talk to your doctor about exercises that best suit you.
An important note: If you have had diabetes for an extended
period of time and are on insulin therapy, talk to your doctor to see if there
are any limitations for exercise with high blood sugar levels. For example, if
your blood glucose is above 240 mg/dL, your doctor may have you check your
urine for ketones.
If you have ketones, do not exercise. Your doctor may also
tell you not to exercise if your blood glucose is above 300 mg/dL even without
ketones. Exercising when ketones are in your body may cause your blood glucose
level to go even higher. While it is rare for those with type 2 diabetes to
experience this, it is still best to be safe.
Analyze your eating
Work with a dietitian or nutritionist to construct a
healthy, interesting selection of meals that can help manage your carbohydrate
intake and prevent higher blood glucose levels.
You doctor may reevaluate your treatment plan based on your
personal health history and your experiences with hyperglycemia. They may
change the amount, type, or timing of your diabetes medication. Do not adjust
your medicines without first talking to your doctor or nurse educator.
What are the complications of hyperglycemia?
Untreated and chronic hyperglycemia can cause serious
complications. These include:
- nerve damage, or neuropathy
- kidney damage, or nephropathy
- kidney failure
- cardiovascular disease
- eye disease, or retinopathy
- foot problems caused by
damaged nerves and poor blood flow
- skin problems, such as
bacterial and fungal infections
Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome
This condition is most common in elderly people
with type 2 diabetes. It may be accompanied by a trigger such as an illness. When
blood glucose levels are high, the kidneys excrete sugar in the urine, taking
water with it.
This causes the blood to become more concentrated, leading
to high sodium and blood sugar levels. This can increase water loss and worsen
dehydration. Blood glucose levels may get as high as 600 mg/dL. If left
syndrome may lead to life-threatening dehydration and even coma.
How is hyperglycemia prevented?
Good diabetes management and careful monitoring of your
blood glucose are both very effective means for preventing hyperglycemia or
stopping it before it gets worse.
Test and record your blood glucose levels on a regular basis
each day. Share this information with your doctor at every appointment.
Know how many carbohydrates you’re eating at each meal and
snack. Strive to stay in the amount approved by your doctor or dietitian. Keep
this information with your blood sugar levels.
Be diabetes smart
Have a plan of action for if and when your blood glucose
reaches certain levels. Take your medication as prescribed, being consistent
about the amount and timing of your meals and snacks.
Medical bracelets or necklaces can help alert emergency
responders to your diabetes if there is a greater problem.