Hyperglycemia: Symptoms, Causes, Risks, Complications, Diagnosis, Treatment ans Prevention

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A man with Hyperglycemia

1Overview

The pancreas is an important organ in the body because it releases insulin, a hormone that aids in the delivery of glucose to the various cells of the body. Glucose is absorbed by the cells and used as their fuel to the many processes they perform. Without glucose, the body will become weak.

When there is a condition called diabetes, the pancreas does not produce the ample amounts of insulin or does not produce any at all. Because of this, the sugar in the blood does not enter the cells properly. When there is an increased level of glucose in the circulating blood, it is termed as hyperglycemia.

High blood sugar or hyperglycemia affects people who have diabetes. Many factors can contribute to hyperglycemia in people with diabetes, such as lifestyle choices, nondiabetes medicines, disease or skipping glucose-lowering medication.

This condition can affect people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In some cases, pregnant women with gestational diabetes can have hyperglycemia, too. If you have excessive amounts of sugar in the blood, it could lead to serious complications, including those affecting the vision, nerves and cardiovascular system.

High blood glucose levels are the defining feature of diabetes, but once the condition has been diagnosed, hyperglycemia is a sign that there is poor control of the condition or the medications are not being taken properly.

Hyperglycemia is characterized by high blood glucose levels of fasting levels more than 126 mg/dl or 7.0 mmol/L and two-hours postprandial levels of more than 11.0 mmol/L or 200 mg/dL.

2Symptoms

The symptoms of hyperglycemia in people with diabetes may develop slowly over a few days or weeks. The longer blood sugar levels stay increased, the more serious the symptoms may become.

The three main symptoms of hyperglycemia include:

  • Polyuria – excessive urination
  • Polydipsia – excessive thirst
  • Polyphagia – excessive hunger

The other signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

Later signs and symptoms include:

  • Weakness
  • Dry mouth
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fruity-smelling breath
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Coma

3Causes

The diet may cause high blood sugar levels in the blood, particularly if the person has diabetes. Eating diets high in carbohydrates like rice, pasta and bread can dramatically increase the blood sugar.

Hyperglycemia may lead to the diagnosis of diabetes. However, for those who were already diagnosed and treated for diabetes, increased blood sugar levels may signal the poor control over the condition.

The common causes of hyperglycemia include:

  • Eating more and exercising less than usual
  • Not using enough insulin or oral diabetes medication
  • Not following diabetes eating treatment plan
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Not injecting the insulin properly
  • Insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes
  • Illness such as flu
  • Emotional and psychological stress
  • Dehydration
  • Stress
  • Taking steroid medications

4Risk Factors

Hyperglycemia can affect people whether they have diabetes or not. Some factors may increase the risk of high blood sugar levels including:

  • Having a chronic or severe disease
  • Having an inactive lifestyle
  • Under emotional distress
  • Have had a recent surgery

For people with diabetes, the blood sugar levels can spike if you:

  • Not following the diabetes diet plan
  • Not taking the medications correctly
  • Not using the insulin properly

5Complications

Hyperglycemia can be a serious problem if it’s left untreated. It is important to treat the condition as soon as you detect it.

Many complications might arise of hyperglycemia is untreated, including:

Ketoacidosis – Hyperglycemia could lead to a condition dubbed as ketoacidosis or diabetic coma. This develops when the body does not have the adequate amounts of insulin, hindering the use of glucose as energy or fuel to break down fats. When the body breaks down fats, they produce a waste product called ketones. The body can’t have elevated amounts of ketones in the body. Too many ketones may lead to ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition that needs immediate medical care.

Hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome – Another emergency condition caused by hyperglycemia is a hyperglycemic hyperosmolar syndrome, a condition that occurs when a person can produce insulin, but it’s faulty. This condition will lead to extremely high amounts of glucose in the body, which is more than 600 mg/dL, leading to dehydration and coma.

Other complications:

Other complications of hyperglycemia include:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Kidney damage
  • Nerve damage or neuropathy
  • Blindness
  • Clouding of the clear lens (cataract)
  • Damage to the blood vessels of the retina
  • Foot problems as a result of poor circulation
  • Bone and joint problems
  • Gum and teeth infections
  • Skin problems, inability of the wounds to heal

6Diagnosis

High blood glucose levels are the defining feature of diabetes, but once the disease is diagnosed, the condition is a sign of poor control of the condition.

The normal blood sugar levels are:

Between 80 and 120 mg/dL or 4 and seven mmol/L for individuals who are 59 years old below.

Between 100 and 140 mg/dL or 6 and eight mmol/L for people who are 60 years old and above and those with underlying medical conditions.

Diagnostic tests:

Fasting blood sugar test – This test will determine the glucose levels in the blood. However, the patient needs to fast the night before the test will be taken.
This is to make sure the test will be accurate.

Home blood sugar monitoring – Routine blood sugar monitoring is the best way to make sure the treatment plan is working and keeping the blood sugar levels at normal range.

Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test – This test is used to detect the glucose levels in the body for the past two to three months. The test works by measuring the percentage of blood sugar that is attached to the hemoglobin, the protein in the red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen.

7Treatment

The success of hyperglycemia treatment depends on how the patient is managing his or her blood glucose levels.

Here are ways to manage hyperglycemia:

Monitor glucose levels – The important way to manage diabetes is to check the blood glucose levels regularly. This should be recorded in a notebook and shown to the doctor during the monthly or annual check-up. Knowing the blood glucose levels and its timing could help you determine triggers that make the levels shoot up.

Exercise regularly – Exercise is a good way to keep the blood sugar level at bay and normal. However, you should seek medical permission first, because, for people with ketones, exercise is contraindicated, because exercise might aggravate dehydration.

Manage your eating habits – Seek the help of a dietician or nutritionist to devise a healthy and low-sugar diet to manage the intake of foods that could increase blood sugar levels such as carbohydrates.

Evaluate the treatment plan – During the course of the treatment, it is important to reevaluate the treatment plan based on the experiences of hyperglycemia. Taking notes is important to make sure that the medicines and diet plan are working.

Take the medicines as directed – If the doctor prescribed medicines to manage the blood glucose levels, it is important to take them as directed. Do not skip your medicines for them to be effective.

Emergency treatment:

For people with signs and symptoms of diabetic ketoacidosis and hyperosmolar hyperglycemic syndrome, you should be treated in the hospital. Usually, the following are the treatment options prescribed by the doctor:

Electrolyte replacement – Electrolytes in the blood should be replenished to help keep the heart, nerve cells, and muscles to work properly.

Fluid replacement – When there is hyperglycemia, you will urinate more than usual, and this could lead to dehydration. Fluid replacement is important to replace the fluids lost during urination.

Insulin therapy – For some patients, insulin therapy can be prescribed to control the blood glucose levels.

8Prevention

Hyperglycemia, especially in patients with type 2 diabetes, can be managed and prevented effectively through the following steps.

Follow the diabetes diet plan – It is important to stick to the diabetes diet plan if you were diagnosed with the condition. Also, eating fewer carbohydrates and sugary food or drinks are essential in preventing the occurrence of diabetes, especially those who have a family history of the disease.

Monitory the blood sugar levels regularly – For those who were not yet diagnosed,
it is important to get tested for the levels of blood glucose in the body to determine if you have diabetes. This is recommended to those who have a family history of diabetes. Furthermore, for those who were already diagnosed, it is important to check and record the blood sugar levels many times a week or several times a day for those who are under medication. This is to make sure the blood glucose levels remain within the normal range.

Take the medicines prescribed regularly and religiously – If you were given certain medications for your blood glucose levels, it is important to take them properly, regularly and religiously to prevent hyperglycemia bouts and to make sure the blood glucose levels are normal.

Adjust the medicines if you change your physical activity – The medicines will be adjusted depending on the blood sugar level results and on the type of activity the patient is doing.

Watch out for the signs and symptoms of complications – There are many complications of hyperglycemia and it is important to make sure you can detect their signs and symptoms. This will ensure that you get emergency medical help right away when needed.