What is Hyperglycemia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
What is hyperglycemia?
Hyperglycemia is the clinical name for high blood sugar. It occurs when you have excess sugar or glucose in your blood. This happens when your body does not have enough insulin or when your body can not use the insulin effectively.
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. It helps sugar in your blood to enter the muscles, fat, and liver, where it is used as energy. Insulin also helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Hyperglycemia is a sign of diabetes. Unchecked high blood sugar can damage your organs and nerves and lead to several complications. However, with timely detection, medical treatment, and changes in lifestyle and diet, you can maintain your blood sugar levels and prevent other health conditions.
Let us learn more about hyperglycemia symptoms, its causes, and treatment.
What is blood sugar?
Sugar comes from the food you eat. It comes from carbohydrates in food and drink and is the primary energy source. Insulin helps transport glucose from your bloodstream to all cells of your body.
What are the blood sugar levels in hyperglycemia?
Checking your blood sugar levels is crucial in detecting hyperglycemia. The following chart will help you understand and maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Blood sugar is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL).
|Fasting (After 8 hours of not eating)||Post Prandial (After eating)|
|Normal||70 - 90 mg/dL||Below 140 mg/dL|
|Pre-diabetes||100 - 125 mg/dL||140 - 180 mg/dL|
|Diabetes (Hyperglycemia)||126 mg/dL and above||Above 200 mg/dL|
What are hyperglycemia symptoms?
You may not notice any hyperglycemia symptoms until your blood sugar levels rise above 180 mg/dL over several weeks. Some people may not experience symptoms even with blood sugar levels at more than 250 mg/dL.
The early symptoms of hyperglycemia are:
- Polydipsia or increased thirst
- Frequent urination
- Weakness and fatigue
- Blurry vision
If left untreated, hyperglycemia can cause ketoacidosis or a build-up of toxic acids in the blood and urine. Symptoms of this condition include,
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
- Dry mouth
- Fruity-smelling breath
- Vaginal infections
- Skin infections
- Slow-healing wounds
- Abdominal pain
Please consult a doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms.
What causes hyperglycemia?
Hyperglycemia usually occurs due to the lack of insulin. Insulin production is affected due to issues in the pancreas.
Hyperglycemia also happens due to your body's inability to use insulin. This is known as insulin resistance. Obesity, physical inactivity, a high-carb diet, and medications like corticosteroids, blood pressure medicines and some psychiatric medications may cause insulin resistance.
Other causes of hyperglycemia are:
- Lack of physical activity
- Improper diet
- Illness or infection
- An injury or a surgery
- Certain medications, like steroids or immunosuppressants
- Stress and lack of sleep
What are the complications of hyperglycemia?
Long-term hyperglycemia can lead to several health conditions due to damage caused to the blood vessels and tissues. Complications due to hyperglycemia include,
- Heart disease
- Nerve damage
- Kidney damage or kidney failure
- Retinopathy or damage to the blood vessels of the retina leading to blindness
- Bone and joint issues
- Gastroparesis or stomach paralysis
- Feet problems such as tingling, numbness, pain, skin infections, and ulcers due to loss of blood flow
- Infections in the teeth and gums
How is hyperglycemia diagnosed?
If you observe symptoms of hyperglycemia, please consult your doctor at the earliest. They will advise blood tests to diagnose diabetes and prescribe a treatment plan.
Blood tests include:
- Fasting glucose test
- Glucose tolerance test
- HbA1C Test or glycated haemoglobin A1C. This blood test shows your average blood sugar levels for the past two to three months.
What are the treatment options for hyperglycemia?
While insulin and medications are the common treatment for hyperglycemia, the easiest way to control your blood sugar is by making lifestyle and dietary changes.
For people who do not require insulin, nutrition, regular exercise, and oral medications will help manage hyperglycemia. Your doctor will prescribe the medicines based on your blood sugar levels and overall health.
Let us take a look at the ideal diet to manage hyperglycemia.
It is advisable to include foods from all the food groups to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. These are,
- Vegetables: Green leafy vegetables, carrots, tomatoes, peppers, sweet potatoes, green peas and corn.
- Fruits: Citrus fruits, like oranges, lemons, berries, apples and bananas.
- Whole grains: Millets, like jowar, bajra, and ragi and other grains, like rice, whole wheat, oats and quinoa.
- Proteins: Nuts, peanuts, beans, tofu, eggs, fish and chicken
- Low-fat dairy: Yogurt, cheese and milk
- Fats: Healthy fats like olive oil, nuts and seeds, avocado, and heart-healthy fish, like salmon and mackerel.
Points to remember:
- Avoid saturated and trans fat, processed foods, fried foods, baked goods, foods high in salt, sugary drinks and fruit juices.
- Eat small meals at regular intervals. Avoid fasting for long hours.
- Follow a regular exercise routine, like walking, running, cycling, swimming or yoga, to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Exercising will also improve your heart health, reduce stress and benefit your overall health and well-being.
- Please take your insulin and medications as directed by your doctor.
- Check your blood sugar regularly. You could use a home blood sugar test kit or get your blood sugar levels tested at a certified laboratory.
To sum up
Unchecked blood sugar levels lead to several health conditions. Therefore, please consult a physician if you observe hyperglycemia symptoms like frequent urination, fatigue, intense thirst or blurry vision. Your doctor will prescribe medications or insulin based on your blood sugar levels. Follow a healthy diet and exercise regularly to control blood sugar levels.