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Hyperglycemia: Things you should know

Hyperglycemia is a condition in which the blood sugar, or glucose, levels are abnormally high. It occurs when the body does not produce or use enough insulin. This hormone aids in the absorption of glucose for usage as energy by cells.

Diabetes can be detected by having a high blood sugar level. A serious complication known as diabetic ketoacidosis can develop if a person with diabetes does not control their blood sugar levels (DKA).

If ketoacidosis is not treated, a diabetic coma can develop, which is a potentially fatal consequence of diabetes.

We’ll look at how to recognize hyperglycemia, how to manage it, and possible causes and complications in this post.


A lady having Hyperglycemia

People with prediabetes or diabetes are more likely to develop hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia in diabetics is caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • eating more than the body requires for its energy needs
  • not getting enough physical activity
  • experiencing stress in work, life, and relationships, which can release hormones that keep glucose at high levels in the blood — some research has linked stress with high blood sugar
  • having an illness, such as the flu, which might lead to stress that causes a spike in blood sugar
  • missing a dose of a diabetes medication, such as insulin

Nondiabetic hyperglycemia is hyperglycemia in those who haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes. When the body responds to acute stress with hormonal changes that influence blood sugar levels, it can happen to those who are critically ill or injured.

Nondiabetic hyperglycemia can also occur in patients who have certain medical issues, such as pancreatic and hormonal problems. It could potentially be an adverse effect of some medications.

Dawn phenomenon

The dawn phenomenon is a common cause of hyperglycemia in diabetics.

Certain hormones, such as adrenaline, glucagon, and cortisol, induce the liver to release glucose into the bloodstream in the early morning.

This occurrence usually occurs 8 to 10 hours after a diabetic goes to bed.

The dawn phenomenon, however, is not the cause of all occurrences of high blood sugar levels in the morning. Hyperglycemia can also be caused by the following factors:

  • not taking enough insulin
  • taking an incorrect dose of medication
  • eating sugary or high carbohydrate snacks before bed

Getting up in the middle of the night and testing your blood sugar will help you figure out whether the peaks are related to the dawn phenomenon or something else.


Hyperglycemia symptoms may not appear until blood sugar levels above 200 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). Symptoms may not appear promptly or at all at this level. For years, a person may have hyperglycemia with no visible symptoms. The longer blood sugar levels remain high, the worse the symptoms get.

Symptoms of hyperglycemia include:

  • excessive thirst
  • weight loss
  • irritability
  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • fatigue
  • intense, unusual hunger
  • frequent urge to urinate

Hyperglycemia is defined as blood glucose levels that are higher than 130 mg/dl before eating a meal or more than 180 mg/dl 2 hours after eating a meal in a person with diabetes.

People with diabetes should self-monitor their glucose levels on a frequent basis to catch high glucose levels before they cause symptoms.


People with diabetes can take actions to prevent, decrease, and treat blood glucose increases. These steps are as follows:

  • Exercise: Excess glucose in the blood is used up during physical activity. If a person has severe hyperglycemia and ketones in their urine, they should avoid activity. Exercise causes more fat to be broken down, which may worsen ketoacidosis.
  • Diet changes: Controlling portions at mealtimes and snacking less, as well as controlling carbohydrate quality and quantity, helps keep glucose levels at a safe level for the body. A certified dietician can assist a person in making progressive and healthy dietary changes.
  • Stress management: Hormones and blood sugar levels can be affected by high stress levels. People with diabetes must learn to manage stress in a variety of ways, including prioritizing sleep and experimenting with relaxation strategies such as meditation.
  • Medication alterations: If a person’s blood sugar levels remain high, a doctor may suggest changing the timings or types of medication and insulin they take.
  • Blood sugar monitoring: It’s important for someone with diabetes to keep track of their blood sugar levels as prescribed by their doctor. This allows you to detect hyperglycemia before it becomes a serious problem.

Diabetes management is a never-ending and frequently lifetime task. A doctor will usually be able to look at a person’s self-monitored data, detect problems, and assist people find ways to avoid extreme surges.

Medical ID

A person with diabetes, particularly hyperglycemia, may consider wearing a necklace or bracelet with information about their condition because it may affect the administration of other treatments.

A medical ID comprises important information, such as whether or not the person:

  • has diabetes
  • has any allergies
  • needs to take insulin

When a someone is unable to speak for themselves, such as after a car accident or while suffering from severe DKA, the information included in a medical ID can be lifesaving.

Hyperglycemia vs. hypoglycemia

Hyperglycemia is defined as high amounts of glucose in the blood, and hypoglycemia is defined as low levels of glucose in the blood. Diabetes patients typically have low blood sugar levels less than 70 mg/dl, which necessitates the use of medication. This advise can differ from one individual to another depending on their circumstances.

Extremely low blood glucose levels necessitate prompt treatment and can be life-threatening. Some of the signs and symptoms of very low blood glucose are as follows:

  • fast heart rate
  • pale skin
  • shakiness
  • anxiety
  • sweating
  • hunger
  • irritability

The brain can stop functioning normally if blood glucose levels go too low and aren’t treated. This can result in symptoms like:

  • confusion
  • blurred vision
  • slurred speech
  • seizures
  • loss of consciousness or coma
  • in rare cases, death

Testing one’s blood sugar levels is the only way to know for sure if they have hypoglycemia. If this isn’t possible, the American Diabetes Association recommends that a person follow their doctor’s recommendations for treating hypoglycemia or seek medical assistance if symptoms are severe.

Hyperglycemia with diabetes

After consuming an unusually large meal that is high in carbohydrates, the majority of people experience a spike in blood sugar levels. It is possible that people who have diabetes will have problems with low or inefficiently used insulin as a result of their persistent hyperglycemia.

Insulin is a hormone generated by the pancreas that permits cells to use glucose for the generation of energy and the correct functioning of their organs. Insulin is essential for the normal functioning of the body. Diabetes can develop when insulin levels are too low or too ineffective.

There are two forms of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Type I diabetes is characterized by the absence of insulin production by the body. Insulin resistance, often known as type 2 diabetes, arises when the body does not utilise insulin effectively. As a result, glucose is retained in the bloodstream and circulates throughout the entire body.

People who are overweight or obese, as well as those who do not engage in enough physical activity, may have persistently high levels of glucose in their blood. It is possible that this will decrease the efficiency of insulin by supplying it with more glucose than it can digest, resulting in type 2 diabetes.


The problems of diabetes are frequently the result of long-term high blood glucose levels.

Having high blood sugar levels on a constant basis due to diabetes can lead to a variety of health concerns, including the following:

Skin complications

People who have had persistent hyperglycemia may be more susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections, such as boils, jock itch, athlete’s foot, and ringworm, according to research.

Spots and lesions can form as a result of other diabetic skin disorders, which can be painful and itchy as a result. These are some examples:

  • diabetic dermopathy, which can lead to oval or circular, scaly, light brown patches on the legs
  • acanthosis nigricans, which causes raised brown areas on the neck, groin, and armpits
  • necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum, which is a rare complication that causes a sometimes painful, scar-like lesion with a violet edge
  • diabetic blisters, which most often develop on the extremities and are painless
  • eruptive xanthomatosis, a condition that causes yellow, pea-sized lumps on the skin that have a red ring around the base
  • digital sclerosis, which causes thick skin with a waxy texture to develop on the back of the hand
  • disseminated granuloma annulare, which causes raised, ring-shaped or arc-shaped patches on the skin

Nerve damage

High blood sugar levels can affect nerves in a variety of ways:

  • Other types of neuropathy: High blood sugar levels can cause femoral, thoracic, cranial, or focal neuropathy.
  • Autonomic neuropathy: This has an impact on the body’s automatic activities, such as bladder control, sexual function, and digestion.
  • Peripheral neuropathy: Numbness, tingling, and weakness are symptoms of nerve damage in the feet and hands. When people injure their feet, they may not realize it and need to examine them frequently to avoid infected wounds.

Eye complications

Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that occurs in people who have diabetes and have continuously high blood sugar levels. This results in damage to the blood vessels at the rear of the eye, which results in vision loss and, in severe cases, blindness.

It is well known that having diabetes raises the chance of developing both glaucoma and cataracts.

Diabetic ketoacidosis

If severe hyperglycemia is left untreated, diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) can result, which is potentially fatal.

If a person with diabetes does not take steps to control their blood sugar levels, the cells in their body become less sensitive to the insulin they produce.

When there is inadequate insulin in the body or when the cells do not respond, and glucose is unable to reach the cells, the body turns to fat for energy instead of glucose. The breakdown of fats in the body results in the production of ketones.

The body is unable to cope with a high concentration of ketones. While it may be possible to eliminate some ketones through the urine, ketones may eventually accumulate in the bloodstream, causing it to become overly acidic. DKA is one of the issues that can arise from this.

DKA causes an increase in the amount of acid in the body. It is possible that it will result in a diabetic coma if left untreated.

Anyone with diabetes who has any of the following symptoms should seek emergency medical attention immediately:

  • breathlessness
  • fruity-smelling breath
  • vomiting and nausea
  • parched mouth


It is possible to have high blood glucose levels due to insufficient or ineffective insulin, poor food, and a sedentary lifestyle if you do not exercise regularly.

Stress-induced hormone spikes, as well as the dawn phenomenon, can both cause and exacerbate bouts of hyperglycemia.

In addition to frequent urination and acute thirst, elevated blood sugar levels during self-monitoring are common symptoms. Unless high blood glucose levels are addressed, a person may develop ketoacidosis, a deadly buildup of waste products that can result in diabetic coma.

Treatment for diabetes includes adjusting diabetes medications, engaging in physical activity, and eating less at meals. People with diabetes should always have a medical identification card, as this can have an impact on their other therapies.



Chukwuebuka Martins

Chukwuebuka Martins is a writer, researcher, and health enthusiast who specializes in human physiology. He takes great pleasure in penning informative articles on many aspects of physical wellness, which he then thoroughly enjoys sharing to the general public.