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Definition

What is hyperglycemia?

High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) affects people who have diabetes. Several factors can contribute to hyperglycemia in people with diabetes, including food and physical activity choices, illness, nondiabetes medications, or skipping or not taking enough glucose-lowering medication.

It’s important to treat hyperglycemia, because if left untreated, hyperglycemia can become severe and lead to serious complications requiring emergency care, such as a diabetic coma. In the long term, persistent hyperglycemia, even if not severe, can lead to complications affecting your eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart.

How common is hyperglycemia?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of hyperglycemia?

The common symptoms of hyperglycemia are:

  • Increased thirst
  • Headaches
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent peeing
  • Fatigue (weak, tired feeling)
  • Weight loss
  • Blood sugar more than 180 mg/dL

Ongoing high blood sugar may cause:

  • Vaginal and skin infections
  • Slow-healing cuts and sores
  • Worse vision
  • Nerve damage causing painful cold or insensitive feet, loss of hair on the lower extremities, or erectile dysfunction
  • Stomach and intestinal problems such as chronic constipation or diarrhea
  • Damage to your eyes, blood vessels, or kidneys

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • You experience ongoing diarrhea or vomiting, but you’re able to take some foods or drinks
  • You have a fever that lasts more than 24 hours
  • Your blood glucose is more than 240 mg/dL (13 mmol/L) even though you’ve taken your diabetes medication
  • You have trouble keeping your blood glucose within the desired range

Call emergency medical assistance if:

  • You’re sick and can’t keep any food or fluids down, and
  • Your blood glucose levels are persistently above 240 mg/dL (13 mmol/L) and you have ketones in your urine

Causes

What causes hyperglycemia?

Your blood sugar may rise if you:

  • Skip or forget your insulin or oral glucose-lowering medicine
  • Eat too many grams of carbohydrates for the amount of insulin you took, or eat too many carbs in general
  • Have an infection
  • Are ill
  • Are under stress
  • Become inactive or exercise less than usual
  • Take part in strenuous physical activity, especially when your blood sugar levels are high and insulin levels are low

Risk factors

What increases my risk for hyperglycemia?

There are many risk factors for hyperglycemia, such as:

  • Not using enough insulin or oral diabetes medication
  • Not injecting insulin properly or using expired insulin
  • Not following your diabetes eating plan
  • Being inactive
  • Having an illness or infection
  • Using certain medications, such as steroids
  • Being injured or having surgery
  • Experiencing emotional stress, such as family conflict or workplace challenges

Illness or stress can trigger hyperglycemia because hormones produced to combat illness or stress can also cause your blood sugar to rise. Even people who don’t have diabetes may develop hyperglycemia during severe illness. But people with diabetes may need to take extra diabetes medication to keep blood glucose near normal during illness or stress.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is hyperglycemia diagnosed?

Your doctor sets your target blood sugar range. For many people who have diabetes, Mayo Clinic generally recommends target blood sugar levels that are:

  • Between 80 and 120 mg/dL (4 and 7 mmol/L) for people age 59 and younger who have no other underlying medical conditions
  • Between 100 and 140 mg/dL (6 and 8 mmol/L) for people age 60 and older, those who have other medical conditions, such as heart, lung or kidney disease, or those who have a history of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or who have difficulty recognizing the symptoms of hypoglycemia

Your target blood sugar range may differ, especially if you’re pregnant or you develop diabetes complications. Your target blood sugar range may change as you get older, too. Sometimes, reaching your target blood sugar range is a challenge.

Home blood sugar monitoring

Routine blood sugar monitoring with a blood glucose meter is the best way to be sure that your treatment plan is keeping your blood sugar within your goal range. Check your blood sugar as often as your doctor recommends.

If you have any signs or symptoms of severe hyperglycemia — even if they’re subtle — check your blood sugar level. If your blood sugar level is 240 mg/dL (13 mmol/L) or above, use an over-the-counter urine ketones test kit. If the urine test is positive, your body may have started making the changes that can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis. You’ll need your doctor’s help to lower your blood sugar level safely.

Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test

During an appointment, your doctor may conduct an A1C test. This blood test indicates your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. It works by measuring the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells.

An A1C level of 7 percent or less means that your treatment plan is working and that your blood sugar was consistently within the target range. If your A1C level is higher than 7 percent, your blood sugar, on average, was above the normal range. In this case, your doctor may recommend a change in your diabetes treatment plan.

However, for some people, especially the elderly, people with other medical conditions, or advanced diabetes complications, a higher A1C level of up to 8 percent may be appropriate.

Keep in mind that the normal range for A1C results may vary somewhat among labs. If you consult a new doctor or use a different lab, it’s important to consider this possible variation when interpreting your A1C test results.

How often you need the A1C test depends on the type of diabetes you have and how well you’re managing your blood sugar. Most people with diabetes, however, receive this test between two and four times a year.

How is hyperglycemia treated?

If you have diabetes and notice any of the early signs of high blood sugar, test your blood sugar and call the doctor. He may ask you for the results of several readings. He could recommend the following changes:

  • Drink more water. H20 helps remove excess sugar from your blood through urine, and it helps you avoid dehydration.
  • Exercise more. Working out can help lower your blood sugar. But under certain conditions, it can make blood sugar go even higher. Ask your doctor what kind of exercise is right for you.
  • Caution: If you have type 1 diabetes and your blood sugar is high, you need to check your urine for ketones. When you have ketones, do NOT exercise. If you have type 2 diabetes and your blood sugar is high, you must also be sure that you have no ketones in your urine and that you are well-hydrated. Then your doctor might give you the OK to exercise with caution as long as you feel up to it.
  • Change your eating habits. You may need to meet with a dietitian to change the amount and types of foods you eat.
  • Switch medications. Your doctor may change the amount, timing, or type of diabetes medications you take. Don’t make changes without talking to him first.

If you have type 1 diabetes and your blood sugar is more than 250 mg/dL, your doctor may want you to test your urine or blood for ketones.

Call your doctor if your blood sugar is running higher than your treatment goals.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage hyperglycemia?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with hyperglycemia:

  • Follow your diabetes meal plan. If you take insulin or oral diabetes medication, it’s important that you be consistent about the amount and timing of your meals and snacks. The food you eat must be in balance with the insulin working in your body.
  • Monitor your blood sugar. Depending on your treatment plan, you may check and record your blood sugar level several times a week or several times a day. Careful monitoring is the only way to make sure that your blood sugar level remains within your target range. Note when your glucose readings are above or below your goal range.
  • Take your medication as prescribed by your health care provider.
  • Adjust your medication if you change your physical activity. The adjustment depends on the blood sugar test results and on the type and length of the activity.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: July 13, 2017 | Last Modified: July 13, 2017

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