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Dealing with Hyperglycemia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

04 Jun 2024

Ever found yourself baffled by the ups and downs of blood sugar levels? It’s a journey many of us go through. Welcome to the realm of hyperglycemia, where our stories intersect and our experiences intertwine. Today, we’ll explore the complexities of hyperglycemia together. While the road may have its challenges, there’s a sense of empowerment in understanding and navigating this terrain. Let’s begin.

What is Hyperglycemia?

The presence of too much blood sugar in your bloodstream forms a condition called hyperglycemia. This either means that your body has low amounts of insulin or is unable to use the existing insulin (insulin resistant). It is usually seen in people with diabetes however non-diabetic people may experience it too. 

When your body has insufficient insulin or is insulin resistant, the glucose doesn’t reach your cells, thereby making it unable to supply energy. As a result, the glucose starts accumulating in your bloodstream, taking your sugar levels to a high. 

It can be dangerous to leave hyperglycemia untreated for a long duration as it has the potential to damage your tissues, nerves, blood vessels and organs, 

Are diabetes and hyperglycemia different?

Yes. Diabetes and hyperglycemia are related but distinct terms. 

Diabetes is chronic and is caused due to high blood sugar levels in your blood. This happens because of insufficient insulin or the inability to use insulin in your body. At the same time, hyperglycemia or high blood sugar levels is the key feature of diabetes but can also occur in people without diabetes because of stress, illness, medication, lifestyle, etc.

Having diabetes calls for ongoing management to control the sugar levels but hyperglycemia is a broader term encompassing high blood sugar levels irrespective of the cause. The symptoms for both can be similar but severe hyperglycemia can pose serious health risks and need special medical attention.

What causes hyperglycemia?

For a diabetic person, cause hyperglycemia. Let’s find out what are these:

  • Inactivity or not exercising
  • Eating beyond what is required by your body 
  • Insufficient medicine intake for type 1 diabetes 
  • Stressing due to work, family etc.
  • Illness/flu
  • Pregnancy
  • Conditions that create insulin resistance such as Cushing’s syndrome and Acromegaly
  • Pancreas-related conditions 
  • Some medicines

For a non-diabetic person, the causes of hyperglycemia can also be:

  • Being critically ill
  • Having certain health conditions like pancreatic and hormonal disorders
  • Side effects of drugs

What could be the symptoms of hyperglycemia?

Recognising symptoms of hyperglycemia is difficult unless your glucose levels are high (more than 180-200 mg/dL). Symptoms develop several days or weeks but the more concerning part is, the longer your glucose levels are high, the more serious your symptoms get. However, there’s a possibility that some people with type 2 diabetes don’t show any symptoms at all.

Let’s look at what the symptoms could be.

Early hyperglycemia symptoms:

  • Feeling too thirsty or hungry
  • Having a blurry vision
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Experiencing headaches
  • Urinating very frequently
  • Feeling weak or fatigued
  • Dry mouth
  • Irritability 

Later hyperglycemia symptoms: 

  • Having cuts and wounds that heal very slowly
  • Recurring infections
  • Experiencing weight loss
  • Weak vision
  • Nerve damage (resulting in insensitive feet, hair loss or erectile dysfunction)
  • Intestinal problems like constipation or diarrhoea
  • Damaged blood vessels and kidney

Are there any treatments for hyperglycemia?

Yes, hyperglycemia can be treated but it is important that you first talk to your doctor about it.
Get a good understanding of the treatments and how they affect your glucose levels. Your doctor may suggest the
following measures for hyperglycemia management:

  • Taking insulin in the right amounts
    Insulin injections are crucial for diabetes patients and are one of the main ways to treat hyperglycemia
    episodes. However, the doses required by every person can be different and you can discuss the same with
    your healthcare provider.
  • Fix your diet
    When you make changes to your diet, follow portion control while
    eating, and monitor your carb intake, managing your glucose level becomes easy. You can also get a dietician for
    better guidance.
  • Get moving
    Exercising or any physical activity helps use up the excessive
    glucose in your blood thereby helping control your sugar levels. But remember to avoid exercising in case of severe
    hyperglycemia (ketones in urine). It may take your blood sugar levels higher.
  • Get your meds
    Take your oral diabetes medication or glucose-lowering
    medications on time. Your healthcare provider may direct you about the dosage and the timings.
  • Be a monitoring master
    You must always keep track of your glucose levels. Glucose tests can sometimes tell about hyperglycemia before it poses a problem.
  • Stay stress-free
    When you stress too much, it can release hormones that
    spike your sugar levels. Hence, finding ways to manage your stress or using relaxation techniques like reading or
    meditation can help.

Diabetes management isn’t a short-term thing. It’s a lifelong journey. But when done right and with
dedication, living becomes easy. This is true even in the case of hyperglycemia, even if it may not
be for a lifetime. Just keep looking at your test results, understand them better, identify what is going wrong and
be communicative with your doctor about the same. It will help make a lot of difference.

About the Author

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Devina Aswal
MBBS, DDM, FCR, CIC

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