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Hyperglycemia in Diabetes
When a human body has too little insulin or cannot process it well, it leads to a spike in blood sugar levels. When blood sugar values shoot past the normal range, it is called hyperglycemia. Usually affecting persons with diabetes, hyperglycemia symptoms are rapid heartbeats, excessive hunger or thirst, and vomiting. If left untreated, hyperglycemia can cause other health problems.
If you struggle with unregulated blood sugar levels, watch out for signs that make up the hyperglycemia definition. The three P’s of this condition include polydipsia, polyuria, and polyphagia. Polyuria is marked by increased or frequent urination, polydipsia means excessive thirst, and polyphagia is associated with increased appetite. The three P’s may or may not occur together. If you experience any of these symptoms, consult your physician and get your blood sugar levels tested immediately.
Table of Contents
What is Hyperglycemia (High blood sugar)?
The condition where the body’s blood sugar level shoots more than the normal range is known as hyperglycemia. This happens when the body does not produce the optimum amount of insulin or the insulin produced by the body is not processed correctly. If your blood sugar level measures more than 180 mg/dl then you are experiencing hyperglycemia post-one-two hours of having a meal. Know about gestational diabetes treatment.
If you are ignorant about your spiked blood sugar levels it can make you prone to developing severe complications which include heart attacks, strokes, kidney damage, etc. If you experience symptoms of hyperglycemia you must consult your doctor to bring your blood sugar levels within the normal range.
What Causes Hyperglycemia?
Hyperglycemia occurs when fasting blood sugar level is more than 125 mg/dL or greater than 180 mg/dL roughly two hours after a meal. People with diabetes who have missed their medication or are unable to manage glucose levels with diet, exercise or insulin can suffer from hyperglycemia. Many factors cause hyperglycemia in a person with diabetes. These causes include-
- Eating more than the recommended intake, or not exercising enough
- Physical stress induced by an illness like a cold or flu
- Inadequate physical activity
- Dawn phenomenon: the hormonal surge produced by the body early in the morning
- Medications like diuretics or steroids
- Inefficiency in consuming medicines and taking insulin.
- Lack of physical activeness
- Increased stress levels (Physical and emotional) and experiencing other illness
- Imbalance in the consumption of carbohydrates and the amount of insulin your body is producing.
- Resorting to steroids or other drugs
- In certain cases, hyperglycemia may also be a result of trauma, surgery, gestational diabetes, endocrine conditions and pancreatic diseases.
Pancreatic diseases, gestational diabetes, surgery, trauma, insulin resistance caused by endocrine conditions, surgery or trauma can also induce symptoms of hyperglycemia. Read more about diabetes causes.
Early detections of the signs of hyperglycemia can help prevent it from manifesting into a more serious condition. In the case of persons with type 1 diabetes, hyperglycemia can lead to a build-up of toxic acids called ketones in the body. The condition is quite severe, as it can lead to coma or death. However, recognising the symptoms at the right time can help your doctor initiate the right treatment to prevent complications. High sugar levels in the body which is usually termed hyperglycemia can be identified pre-hand by observing the symptoms. Certain symptoms of hyperglycemia are experienced initially while certain symptoms develop gradually.
Early hyperglycemia symptoms-
- Spiked blood sugar levels
- Increased appetite and thirst
- Experiencing frequent urination
- Having blurred vision
- The 3 p’s of Diabetes
The 3 P’s of diabetes are the three major symptoms that lead to the diagnosis. These include –
- Polydipsia (excessive thirst): Experience increased thirst and frequent urge to consume water.
- Polyuria (frequent or increased urination): Urinating more than usual as the body gets rid of the extra sugar through urine.
- Polyphagia (increased appetite): Having increased appetite which is a result of loss of fluids and glucose through urination.
You might not experience all of these three at once. People with type 1 diabetes experience these symptoms much faster than type 2. If you experience these symptoms there is a full possibility that you are having hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar level )and, in that case, you must consult your doctor to get your blood sugar levels under control.
- Dry mouth
- Weight loss or weakness
- Fruity-smelling breath
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Confusion or disorientation
- Rapid heartbeat
Symptoms experienced gradually-
- Feeling fatigued throughout the day
- Sudden weight loss
- Skin infections and vaginal infections
- Delayed healing of cuts and wounds
- Vaginal and skin infections
- Slow-healing cuts and sores
- Abdominal pain
If you experience one or more of these symptoms, immediately check with your healthcare provider. A simple blood test will determine the right treatment depending on the range of your blood sugar. Inform your doctor if your blood sugar levels are constantly over 240 mg/dL even after medication, or you have diarrhoea or vomiting.
Also read about random blood test and random blood sugar normal range
What are Risk Factors for Hyperglycemia?
Blood sugar levels, especially for individuals with diabetes, often tend to fluctuate. However, you should be aware of what hyperglycemia means for your health. Constantly high sugar levels can cause severe complications. Untreated hyperglycemia can damage the nerves, tissues and blood vessels, eventually damaging other organs and increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke. This can also damage the eyes, kidneys and delay wound healing.
Some major symptoms of hyperglycemia include:
- A family history of diabetes mellitus
- Excessive weight and a sedentary lifestyle
- High cholesterol or blood pressure
- History of gestational diabetes
- Irregular medication or insulin use
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
Also read about how to prevent diabetes
What are the complications of hyperglycemia?
Negligence of spiked blood sugar levels can lead to complications. The risk of developing complications can be reduced by keeping the blood sugar level under the normal range. Certain long-term complications include-
- Cardiovascular disorders
- Neuropathy which is nerve damage
- Increased risk of kidney failure or damage due to diabetic neuropathy
- Loss of vision or blindness known as diabetic retinopathy
- Joint and bone-related issues
- Teeth infections, gum infections
- Diabetic feet are a result of damaged nerves which can further lead to skin infections and ulcers.
Apart from the above-listed complications, certain complications need instant treatments-
Diabetic ketoacidosis- If you have type 1 diabetes and you neglect your spiked blood sugar levels for a long time, you might develop ketoacidosis which is a condition that leads to an excessive buildup of toxins known as ketones. Certain symptoms that you’ll experience if you have ketoacidosis include-
- Vomiting and nausea
- Having fruity breath
- Experiencing breathing problems
- Increased heartbeat
Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state- If your body produces insulin but it is not efficient in optimally using the produced insulin your body's sugar levels will spike tremendously which can lead to a condition called hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state. If you develop this condition, your body won’t be able to use fats and glucose for energy. This condition can lead to immense dehydration of the body and can lead to coma.
What causes Hyperglycemia in people with Diabetes?
There can be many underlying hyperglycemia causes in persons with diabetes. As discussed in the previous sections, improper use of medication/insulin, illness or stress, use of steroids or certain drugs, insufficient physical activity or eating more than your body can process, can trigger hyperglycemia. A combination of diet, medication and exercise can help maintain blood sugar levels within the normal range. If your blood glucose is constantly more than 240 mg/dl, you should also get your urine tested for ketones. Avoid exercising if you have ketones in urine, as it can spike your blood glucose even further. Know about best medicine for diabetes.
How to Prevent Hyperglycemia?
It is always a better option to take the necessary precautions to prevent the development of severe complications of hyperglycemia. You can resort to certain diabetes management plans that focus on maintaining normal blood sugar levels. However, there are certain alterations that you can make in your life to prevent hyperglycemia.
While it is advised that persons with diabetes watch out for the Signs and Symptoms of Hyperglycemia, it is always better to take the necessary precautions to help prevent it in the first place. Blood sugar levels can be kept under control if you follow the diabetes management plan advised by your doctor. In case hyperglycemia is induced by certain steroids or illnesses, your doctor will be able to adjust medication to bring your blood sugar levels within the normal range. The following points can help prevent hyperglycemia:
- Exercise: Diligently working out daily helps to burn fats and keep blood sugar levels within the normal range. Regular physical activity helps lower blood sugar.
- Consume healthy and balanced diet: Consume meals at a regular time daily. Avoid foods that are high in carbohydrates and sugars. Do not consume too much or too little quantity of food during a meal. Stick to your meal plan and avoid foods high in carbohydrates or sugars as these tend to impact your blood sugar levels. Time your meals and your medication through the day. Avoid eating too much or too little during a meal.
- Make sure your weight is ideal: Maintaining healthy weight impacts positively managing diabetes. It helps to prevent compilations by keeping your blood sugar levels under control. A combination of diet and exercise will help maintain your ideal weight, which goes a long way in preventing diabetes-related complications and maintaining blood sugar levels.
- Lifestyle: Quit smoking and limit drinking alcohol; the latter can not only increase blood sugar, but it can also cause a sudden drop in the same. Limit your alcohol consumption as it majorly impacts your blood sugar level. Consuming alcohol irrationally can also make your blood sugar levels drop drastically.
- Monitor blood glucose: Monitor your blood sugar levels frequently. This helps to know what types of foods and exercises are working in favor of your condition and what aren’t producing any results. If you notice strange patterns in your blood sugar levels consult your healthcare provider immediately. Regularly measure your blood glucose levels. If required, record blood sugar multiple times a day. Closely monitoring these can help keep your sugar levels within range and help your doctor create the most suitable diabetes management plan for you.
If you are unsure of how frequently you should check your sugar levels, consult your doctor. Managing hyperglycemia with a healthy diet, active lifestyle and stress management is easy for individuals diagnosed with both, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. Oral medications and insulin can help control high blood glucose levels. You may even be asked to take extra medication until your blood sugar is back in the normal range. Your physician will also advise the exercises that best suit you. Avoid strenuous exercise if you have cardiovascular or other physical conditions. Also know about fasting sugar normal range.
What are 3 p's of Hyperglycemia?
The 3 p’s in diabetes are –
- Polydipsia – Increased thirst
- Polyuria – Frequent urination
- Polyphagia – Excessive appetite and hunger.
In diabetes, these 3 P’s may often, but not always, occur together. The development of these 3 in type 1 diabetes is much faster than in type 2 diabetes. Other symptoms might also accompany the three P’s that can characterize and mark the onset of diabetes. Other tests would be required to make a definitive diagnosis.
Is excessive hunger a sign of diabetes?
Polyphagia symptoms, or excessive hunger, can be a sign of diabetes. Hyper and hypoglycemia associated with diabetes can cause excessive hunger at times. Extreme hunger, even after you eat, can be a warning sign for diabetes as the muscles may not be getting the energy they require from the food you have eaten. The insulin resistance may prevent glucose from entering the muscles and thereby, restricting energy. This leads to the muscles and other tissues sending a ‘hunger’ sign out to the brain trying to receive more energy.
What are the symptoms of polyphagia diabetes?
The main symptom of polyphagia in diabetes is excessive hunger. This hunger does not seem to subside even after consuming food. You will find yourself craving more food and energy, often in the form of sugars. This can happen in undiagnosed diabetes. Even after the diagnosis, unmanaged or poorly controlled diabetes can lead to excessive hunger and can be a cyclic process as it contributes to an even higher increase in blood sugar levels.
Can you have hyperglycemia and not diabetes?
Most often than not, experiences of high blood sugar levels are associated with diabetes. However, there can be certain times wherein the sugar levels of the body can be high but diabetes, as a condition, is not present. This can be in cases of high-stress situations or during a major illness or injury. Other issues related to the pancreas like pancreatitis, pancreatic tumor, etc can also result in high sugar levels
Can hyperglycemia go away on its own?
In case episodes of hyperglycemia are left untreated and are frequent, visiting a doctor for a proper diagnosis is vital. However, even if there are isolated incidents of high blood sugar levels, understanding the cause could help in the treatment. If the pancreas is functioning properly and an adequate amount of insulin is being produced in the body, hyperglycemic episodes can resolve themselves. However, there are times when drinking water, walking, or taking insulin might be best
What is the first aid for hyperglycemia?
Usually, fluid replacement is the way to go. Having a lot of water can help flush out the toxins from the body and can help to lower blood sugar levels. Secondly, mild exercise like walking, jogging, etc can also burn the excess sugars in the bloodstream and bring the levels down. In case a person with diabetes is experiencing hyperglycemia, the first aid for them would be to take the correction dose of insulin.
Can high blood sugar cause rapid heartbeat?
Yes, one of the symptoms of spiked sugar levels is experiencing a rapid heartbeat. If you are having hyperglycemia which is a result of elevated blood sugar levels, the rate at which your heart beats might get affected. Ignorance of such symptoms can lead to the development of complications like heart attacks, strokes, etc.
Excessive hunger a symptom of diabetes?
If your blood sugar levels are abnormally high, you might experience increased appetite. This is a symptom of hyperglycemia. As glucose present in the blood is restricted to enter the cells due to insulin resistance or the inability of the body to produce insulin. This makes the body ineffective in turning food into energy which eventually leads to increased hunger.
This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.