What is Hyperglycemia (High Blood Sugar)?
Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) is the clinical term for an elevated level of glucose in the blood which is abnormal.
Normal blood glucose levels, when taken in the morning before eating (fasting), are anything below 100 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter). An impaired glucose tolerance, or prediabetes, is indicated by a reading of between 100 mg/dL and 125 mg/dL. Anything over 125 mg/dL is considered diabetic. (1)
A definitive test for hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) can be done by a medical professional via blood samples. There are however symptoms which might alert you to the fact you could have this condition. These include:
Frequent Urination (Polyuria)
Frequent urination is the need to pass urine more often than is considered normal for an individual. While this can differ from person to person, normal urination usually means passing urine approximately every three to four hours.
Instances of urination exceeding eight times a day, and once at night, is considered frequent. (3)
Excessive Thirst (Polydipsia)
Everyone gets thirsty at some point throughout the day. Water intake of about eight glasses a day is necessary to maintain hydration and keep our body functioning effectively.
However, if you feel thirsty all the time, even after drinking, it could be a cause for concern. This is particularly the case if this feeling of thirst is strong, persistent and unexplained. (4)
Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
As well as extreme thirst an unusually dry mouth is also a symptom of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
Saliva helps control bacteria in the mouth and washes away acids. Lack of moisture from insufficient saliva can lead to inflammation of the gums and oral thrush. (5)
We all lose or gain a few pounds now and again, however, when this is unexplained it might ring alarm bells.
An unexplained weight loss of more than around 10 lbs could be a sign of an underlying medical condition, including hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). (6)
High blood sugar levels can interfere with the body’s ability to obtain glucose from blood cells. This means it cannot provide the energy needed to function.
Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) can affect brain function resulting in several neurological symptoms. These include dizziness, blurred vision and changes in brain function like confusion or lack of concentration.
If blood glucose levels are high and remain so, the body is unable to take glucose from the bloodstream into the blood cells. Consequently, food cannot be turned into energy.
Due to the lack of energy, hunger is increased and the feeling does not go away when you eat. (11)
To better understand hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) we will look at three stages of diabetes. Diabetes is a disease which occurs when your blood sugar, also called blood glucose, is too high.
Blood glucose gives the body energy from the food you eat. A hormone produced in the pancreas called insulin assists this process by helping glucose from food enter the cells
When the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or fails to use it efficiently, glucose cannot enter the cells and the result is hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). This is the main characteristic of diabetes. (12)
Stage #1 Pre Diabetes
Prediabetes describes blood glucose levels that are above what is considered normal but not so high as to be classed as diabetes.
It can also be referred to as impaired fasting glucose (IFT) when sugar levels are above normal after fasting: or impaired glucose intolerance (IGT) when the levels are above normal after eating.
At this stage you can make lifestyle changes to return blood sugar levels to normal. It might be as simple as changing diet and increasing exercise levels. (13)
Stage #2 Type 2 Diabetes
This type of diabetes indicates the body does not make or use insulin well. It can develop at any age, but is more common in middle age and beyond.
This is the most common type of diabetes, if caught early enough, it can be managed with dietary changes or medication.
A person who has type 2 diabetes develops hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) due to insulin resistance and abnormal insulin production. (14)
Stage #3 Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes indicates the body’s inability to produce insulin. It is an autoimmune disease where the cells which produce insulin in the pancreas are attacked and destroyed.
Sometimes called insulin dependant diabetes, people with this condition must take insulin to survive.
Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) in type 1 diabetes is a result of environmental, genetic and immunologic factors. These factors affect insulin production by killing the pancreatic cells (beta cells). (15)
The aim of treatment for hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) is to reduce the complications associated with the condition. These include kidney disease, eye disease, heart diseases, stroke and circulatory disorders. (16)
Treatment can vary dependent on the type of associated diabetes.
Pre Diabetes and Insulin Resistance
Treatment at this stage generally consists of lifestyle changes. Excess weight and lack of exercise are major contributors to the likelihood of developing hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
Following a healthy diet, losing weight, if you need to and being more physically active can lower blood glucose levels.
A study has shown losing five to seven percent of body weight reduces the chance of prediabetes progressing to diabetes (type 2).
A medication called metformin, used to treat diabetes, can also help prevent hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). (17)
Diabetes Type 2
Lifestyle changes including healthy eating, losing weight and exercise also help with this type of diabetes. It is also important to monitor blood glucose, cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Quitting smoking is another factor which can have a positive outcome on hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).
It is likely you will be prescribed medication to help control your blood glucose levels. These include pills or injections and you might need a combination of more than one form.
Diabetes Type 1
This type of diabetes must be treated by replacing the insulin hormone which is no longer made by the body. This medication will be administered several times a day, including at meal times.
Insulin is injected with a syringe and needle, a specialized pen or an insulin pump. There are also inhalers, insulin ports and jet injectors which can deliver insulin to the body. (19)
There are surgeries available if medications are not working or a doctor sees fit.
Bariatric surgery reduces the size of the stomach to promote weight loss. If you are very obese, have not been able to lose weight, and have hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) this type of surgery might help.
Another type of surgery is using an artificial pancreas. This replaces the use of insulin injections and pumps and the need for manual testing of glucose levels. A single system, it provides insulin and another hormone, glucagon, automatically. (20)
What is hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)? Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) is the clinical term for an elevated level of glucose in the blood which is abnormal.
What are the signs of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)? The symptoms of this condition include frequent urination, extreme thirst or hunger, fatigue, weight loss and dry mouth. Confusion, dizziness, lack of concentration and blurred vision are further signs.
How do you develop hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)? Being overweight, an unhealthy diet and being physically inactive can predispose you to this condition. Other factors include genetics, age, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or a history of heart disease. (21)
How are you diagnosed for hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)? A blood test, called an A1C test, measures the amount of glucose present in your blood and indicates whether it is high. (22)
What is the best treatment for hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)? Your medical professional will work with you to decide what course of treatment to take. It could be as simple as making lifestyle changes like losing weight, quitting smoking, eating healthy and exercising.
What are the long term complications of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)? Chronic hyperglycemia (blood sugar levels) can have serious consequences causing conditions which are life threatening. Diabetic ketoacidosis happens when the body starts using fat for fuel and produces ketones. Too many ketones can poison the body. Another condition, a hyperglycemic hyperosmolar state, sees glucose levels so high they cause severe dehydration leading to seizures, coma and death. (23)
Is hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) considered a disability? If hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) impairs your ability to work and function you may qualify for disability benefits. (24)
Is there a cure for hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)? If caught early enough, high blood glucose can be managed by lifestyle changes. However, if it progresses to diabetes there is no cure but there are treatments to manage the condition.
Is hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) life threatening? There are occasions when, if not recognized, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) can be life threatening.
Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) is the clinical term for an elevated level of glucose in the blood which is abnormal. This can be classified as pre diabetes, type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
While the condition can be serious and life threatening, if recognized and treated it can be successfully managed.
Fortunately lifestyle changes can have a positive effect on this condition. Following a healthy eating plan, losing weight and exercising will all help.