Hyperglycemia

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Hyperglycemia facts

  • Hyperglycemia is having an abnormally high blood glucose (blood sugar) level.
  • Hyperglycemia is a hallmark sign of diabetes (both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes) and prediabetes.
  • Diabetes is the most common cause of hyperglycemia.
  • Other conditions that can cause hyperglycemia are pancreatitis, 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 hyperglycemia 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.

What is Hyperglycemia?

Hyperglycemia is the medical term describing an abnormally high blood glucose (blood sugar) level. Blood sugar is measured in a sample of blood taken from a vein or from a small finger stick sample of blood. It can be measured in a laboratory either alone or with other blood tests, or it can be measured using a handheld glucometer, a small device that allows frequent monitoring of blood glucose levels without the need for a doctor's office or laboratory.

Hyperglycemia is a hallmark sign of diabetes (both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes) and prediabetes. Normal ranges for blood glucose measurements can vary slightly among different laboratories, but in general a fasting (early a.m. before breakfast) glucose level is considered normal if it is between 70-100 mg/dL. Glucose levels may rise slightly above this range following a meal. Random blood glucose measurements are usually lower than 125 mg/dL.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/19/2013

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Diabetic Ketoacidosis Symptoms

The body's cells need two energy requirements to function. The blood stream delivers both oxygen and glucose to the front door of the cell. The the oxygen is invited in, but the glucose needs a key to open the door. The insulin molecule is that key. When we eat, the body senses the levels of glucose in the blood stream and secretes just the right amount of insulin from the pancreas so that cells and the body can function.

People with diabetes don't have the luxury of that auto-sensing. They need to balance the amount of glucose intake with the amount of insulin that needs to be injected. Not enough insulin and the glucose levels in the blood stream start to rise; too much insulin, and they plummet.

The consequences of hypoglycemia (hypo=low, glycemia=glucose in the blood) 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. It's interesting that brain cells don't need insulin to open their doors to glucose, so when people develop coma from low blood sugar, they waken almost instantaneously upon treatment. 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.


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