- Hyperglycemia is an abnormally high blood glucose (blood sugar) level.
- Hyperglycemia is a hallmark sign of diabetes (bothtype 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes) and prediabetes.
- Diabetes is the most common cause of hyperglycemia.
- Other conditions that can cause hyperglycemia arepancreatitis, Cushing’s syndrome, unusual hormone-secreting tumors, pancreatic cancer, certain medications, and severe illnesses.
- The main symptoms of hyperglycemia are increased thirst and a frequent need to urinate.
- Severely elevated glucose levels can result in a medical emergency like diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) or hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (HHNS, also referred to as hyperglycemic hyperosmolar state).
- Insulin is the treatment of choice for people with type 1 diabetes and for life-threatening increases in glucose levels.
- People with type 2 diabetes may be managed with a combination of different oral and injectable medications.
- Hyperglycemia due to medical conditions other than diabetes is generally treated by treating the underlying condition responsible for the elevated glucose
Diabetic Ketoacidosis Symptoms
People with diabetes don’t have the luxury of that auto-sensing. Not enough insulin and the glucose levels in the blood stream start to rise; too much insulin, and they plummet.
The consequences of hypoglycemia are easy to understand. No energy source, no function – and the first organ to go is the brain. It needs glucose to function and without it, the brain shuts down quickly. Confusion, lethargy, and coma occur quickly. Blood sugar is one of the first things checked on scene of a comatose patient, because it’s so easy to fix and very embarrassing for an EMT to miss.
What causes hyperglycemia?
A number of medical conditions can cause hyperglycemia, but the most common by far is diabetes mellitus. Diabetes affects over 8% of the total U.S. population. In diabetes, blood glucose levels rise either because there is an insufficient amount of insulin in the body or the body cannot use insulin well. Normally, the pancreas releases insulin after a meal so that the cells of the body can utilize glucose for fuel. This keeps blood glucose levels in the normal range.
Type 1 diabetes is responsible for about 5% of all cases of diabetes and results from damage to the insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes is far more common and is related to the body’s inability to effectively use insulin. In addition to type 1 and type 2, gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that develops in pregnant women. Studies show that between 2% to 10% of all pregnant women get gestational diabetes.
Sometimes, hyperglycemia is not the result of diabetes. Other medical conditions that can cause hyperglycemia include:
- Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- Pancreatic cancer
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland)
- Cushing’s syndrome (elevated blood cortisol level)
- Unusual tumors that secrete hormones, including glucagonoma,pheochromocytoma, or growth hormone-secreting tumors
- Severe stresses on the body, such as heart attack, stroke, trauma, or severe illnesses, can temporarily lead to hyperglycemia
- Taking certain medications, including prednisone, estrogens, beta-blockers, glucagon, oral contraceptives, phenothiazines, and others, can elevate blood glucose levels
How is hyperglycemia treated?
Mild or transient hyperglycemia may not need medical treatment, depending upon the cause. People with mildly elevated glucose or prediabetes can often lower their glucose levels by incorporating diet and lifestyle changes. To assure that you chose the right dietary and lifestyle changes , you should speak with your health care professional or use reliable resources such as the American Diabetes Association.
Insulin is the treatment of choice for people with type 1 diabetes and for life-threatening increases in glucose levels. People with type 2 diabetes may be managed with a combination of different oral and injectable medications. Some people with type 2 diabetes also take insulin.
Hyperglycemia due to medical conditions other than diabetes is generally treated by addressing the underlying condition responsible for the elevated glucose. In some cases, insulin may be needed to stabilize glucose levels during this treatment.