Medical condition characterized by presence of high blood sugar levels is termed as Hyperglycemia. It develops due to reduced glucose metabolism i.e. elimination of glucose derived from foods from the blood stream. Patient with consistent glucose level range between 100 and 126 is considered hyperglycemic, while above 126 mg/dl or 7 mmol/l is generally held to have Diabetes.
Poor or impaired glucose metabolism can be either due to lowered secretion of hormone insulin responsible for glucose metabolism or due to ineffectiveness of the secreted insulin. Other reasons for development of hyperglycemia include stress, infection, strenuous physical activity and illness.
Diabetes can also cause hyperglycemia. If one has type 2 diabetes, the reason for hyperglycemia may be lack of insulin. In case of type 2 diabetics, while the insulin may be present it is not proving to be effective.
Symptoms of Hyperglycemia
Hyperglycemia symptoms are not generally expressed until the glucose levels elevate to 11millimoles/ liter. Symptoms develop gradually over few weeks and become serious when the elevated blood sugar levels continue for a long time.
Early hyperglycemia symptoms
- Blood sugar levels above optimum(180mg/dL)
- Fatigue: Patient feels tired and weak all the time.
- Increased thirst.
- Frequent urination.
- Blurred vision.
- Weight loss.
- Reduced ability to concentrate.
Late Hyperglycemia symptoms
- Ketoacidosis: Due to lowered availability of insulin body cannot metabolize glucose to meet energy demands of the body. Hence, it starts to utilize fat to fulfill energy needs. But, breakdown of fats results in ketone bodies that are utilized at a rate slower than they are released. As a result these toxic ketones get accumulated in the body. Excess ketone bodies are eliminated through urine. High blood sugar levels further fuel the dehydration process ultimately resulting in a myriad of symptoms.
- Diabetic coma: Develops when the blood sugar levels are close to 600mg/dL and beyond. Symptoms such as high fever, restlessness, inability to speak, paralysis, vision problems, headache, drowsiness and hallucinations are observed before the patient enters in to coma.
- Hyperosmolar syndrome : Insulin secretion remains normal but the secreted insulin remains ineffective as a result blood sugar levels go beyond 600mg/dL resulting in diabetic coma and ketoacidosis if left untreated.
- Reduced vision: high blood sugar levels cause damage to blood vessels supplying the retina resulting in complete blindness. This is termed as diabetic retinopathy.
- Increased risk for infections such as bacterial and fungal infections of skin, teeth and gums.
- Fruity odor in breath.
- Abdominal pain.
- Dizziness upon standing.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Dry mouth.
- Poor wound healing.
If hyperglycemia is left untreated for a long time it can cause damage to vital organs such as kidneys, heart, eyes and the nerves
Treatment of Hyperglycemia
Hyperglycemia can be regulated effectively by taking care of diet, practicing regular workouts and by taking required medications. However, early diagnosis is very important to treat hyperglycemia effectively. To know accurately if the patient is suffering with hyperglycemia blood glucose levels are tested at various timings. It is considered normal if the blood glucose level after eight hours of fasting is between 90 mg/dL and130 mg/dL, 70mg/dL to 130mg/dL before meals and below 180mg/dL after one to two hours of meals. Blood sugar levels above normal range indicate hyperglycemia.
Upon observing early hyperglycemia symptoms such as increased thirst and frequent urination it is recommended to get the blood sugar levels tested. If the blood sugar levels are found above optimum every time the test is conducted then it is very important to consult the physician. If the blood sugar levels are not too high then the doctor may ask you to lower the carbohydrate content of the diet, increase water intake and practice regular exercises. If the blood sugar levels do not return to normal then you will be given diabetes medications depending on the blood glucose levels. Blood sugar levels should also be checked regularly until the levels return to normal. Help of dietician should be taken to make right meal plan to meet energy demands of the body as well keep blood sugar levels under control.
Patients with high blood sugar levels due to an underlying infection or diseases should be treated to reduce the illness and bring down sugar levels to normal.
If the increased levels of ketone bodies are observed in patient’s urine then the physician may increase the insulin dosage or change the insulin type to a fast acting form. Drinking of more amounts of sugar free fluids and regular urine analysis for presence of ketone bodies helps to bring ketoacidosis under control and prevent diabetic coma.
If complications such as signs of diabetic coma are observed patient is hospitalized and insulin is administered intravenously. Any delay in treatment of diabetic coma symptoms can result in death. Fluids and electrolytes are given intravenously to replace fluids and minerals lost due to frequent urination and lowered levels of insulin. Replacement of electrolytes improves the functioning of heart, muscles and nerves.
Diabetic patients should check their glucose levels before exercising as workouts lower the blood glucose levels. This in turn promotes fat breakdown increasing the levels of ketone bodies. Hence, if the blood glucose levels are above 240mg/dL do not exercises to avoid ketoacidosis.
Prevention and precautions
Hyperglycemia can be prevented by following simple measures such as
- Taking well balanced diet with optimum levels of all nutrients. Make sure that the carbohydrate content of the diet is as per requirement.
- Regular testing of blood sugar levels.
- Consulting the physician if abnormal blood sugar levels are observed consistently.
- Checking the hemoglobin A1c levels for every three months to obtain a report of blood sugar levels of the past three months. Presence of less than 7% of hemoglobin A1c levels is considered safe.
Patients should seek immediate medical attention if hyperglycemia symptoms persist for a very long time with blood sugar levels at 240 mg/dl and unable to take any form of food.