What is hyperglycemia?

Hyperglycemia is the medical term for high blood sugar. This is a condition that often affects people who have diabetes. People can get high blood sugar when they don't have enough insulin in their bodies. It can also happen when their bodies aren't using the insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone your body makes that regulates your blood sugar.

This condition needs treatment. Without treatment, it can lead to serious complications like diabetic coma. It can also affect your kidneys, eyes, heart or nerves.

Causes of hyperglycemia

Hyperglycemia develops when your blood sugar rises to abnormal levels. This can happen if you:

  • Are sick
  • Are stressed out
  • Have an infection
  • Don't get enough exercise
  • Eat high amounts of carbohydrates
  • Forget to take medication that lowers your blood sugar

Risk factors of hyperglycemia

This is a condition that affects people with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes. So, the biggest risk factor for getting hyperglycemia is having diabetes. However, even people who don't have diabetes can have hyperglycemia from time to time. For instance, when you have a severe illness, hormones that help your body heal may also make your blood sugar levels go up. 

Symptoms of hyperglycemia

Untreated hyperglycemia can lead to complications over time. That's why it's important to be mindful of its symptoms. Many people don't notice the symptoms until blood sugar levels get dangerously high or until other complications develop. If you've had diabetes for a long time, you may not experience symptoms until your blood sugar levels have been high for days or weeks. Some symptoms to look out for include:

  • Headaches
  • Blurry vision
  • Extreme thirst
  • Increased hunger
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Urinating frequently
  • Numbness or tingling in feet

Symptoms of hyperglycemia that need immediate medical care are:

  • Nausea, vomiting or pain in your abdomen
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Fruity-smelling breath
  • Feeling confused
  • Dry mouth
  • Coma

These symptoms can happen when the blood sugar is so high for so long that substances called ketones start to build up in your blood and your urine. These can make your blood acidic.

Diagnosis of hyperglycemia

Testing your blood sugar with a home blood glucose meter is the easiest way to diagnose hyperglycemia. The normal blood sugar range is between 80 and 120 mg/dL for healthy individuals under the age of 59 or between 100 and 140 mg/dL for older individuals or those with other medical conditions. Target blood sugar levels may differ for people who have diabetes.

The best time to test your blood sugar levels is before meals. You'll usually see an increase in blood sugar after you eat as your body digests food.

Treatments for hyperglycemia

Your doctor may recommend an exercise and eating plan to help manage your blood sugar levels. You might also need to monitor your blood sugar regularly. This way, you can be sure it doesn't get too high or stay high too long. If necessary, your doctor may prescribe insulin or another medication. This can help you keep your blood sugar at the target levels. If you're already taking medication, then your doctor may need to adjust the dose or the timing of your doses.

You can often treat and manage hyperglycemia on your own with your doctor's help. If your blood sugar levels reach 240 mg/dL or higher, seek medical care to bring it back down safely. Emergency treatments often consist of fluid replacement. You may also need insulin therapy. This can reverse the buildup of ketones in your blood.

Recovery from hyperglycemia

If you have hyperglycemia, you may need to monitor it long-term. Once your doctor has developed a diabetes management plan, it's important to stick to it. Eat healthy foods in the right amounts. Get regular exercise and take prescribed medications. This way, you can keep your blood sugar levels in check. Monitoring your blood sugar levels helps you identify hyperglycemia early so you can treat it before it gets worse.

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