The common symptoms of having high blood sugar levels are:
- Frequent urination
- Frequent thirstiness
- Blurry vision
If high blood sugar is left untreated, ketones can build up in the blood or urine, causing ketoacidosis. The symptoms for this are:
- Breath smelling like fruit
- Nausea and vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Abdominal pain
- Dry mouth
- General weakness
When Should I See My Doctor?
Seek emergency medical attention if:
- You are having trouble keeping down food or liquids without throwing up
- Blood sugar levels are constantly above 240 mg/dL (13 mmol/L) or if there are ketones in your urine
- You have ongoing diarrhea or vomiting but are able to eat some food or drink
- You have fever that lasts more than a full day
Causes and Risk Factors
Hyperglycemia has many causes, including diseases like diabetes, but not all the causes are related to illness. The following are some of the more common causes:
- For those with type 1 diabetes, not having enough insulin in the body
- For those with type 2 diabetes, when the body has enough insulin but cannot use it properly
- Eating more or exercising less than planned
- Stress due to illness
- Stress due to external factors (e.g., family, school, work or relationship problems)
- Dawn phenomenon (a flood of hormones produced by the body daily at approximately 4:00 AM to 5:00 AM)
What Increases My Risk for High Blood Sugar Levels?
There are many risk factors contributing to high blood sugar levels:
- Insufficient insulin shots or oral medication for diabetes
- Too much sweet / sugary consumption (e.g. chocolates, cakes, soft drinks and fruit juices)
- Illness or infection
- Injury, trauma, or major surgery
- Emotional stress due to family, school, work or relationship problems
Hormones that fight sickness or stress may cause your blood glucose level to increase. People who do not have diabetes can also get hyperglycemia if they are very sick. Diabetics may have to take extra medication to maintain blood sugar at a normal level if they are ill or under stress.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Hyperglycemia can be determined through a number of procedures.
Random Plasma Glucose Test
A blood sample can be collected at any time and is also used in diagnosing type 1 diabetes.
Fasting Plasma Glucose Test
This is taken after a minimum of eight hours of fasting, usually in the morning. A result of 100 – 125 mg/dL is considered as a risk of getting type 2 diabetes especially if it occurs with other risk factors.
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test
A blood sample is first collected then you will need to consume a sweet drink having 75 grams of glucose. You should be at rest as your blood will be drawn after two hours.
HBA1C Test (To Diagnose Diabetes)
This procedure does not measure blood sugar level directly, but its results are influenced by how high or low your blood sugar levels have been within a span of two to three months
Conditions of diabetes or pre-diabetes are indicated by these values:
- Normal – <6 percent (under 42 mmol/mol)
- Pre-diabetes – 6 to 6.5 percent (42 to 47 mmol/mol)
- Diabetes – >6.5 percent (48 mmol/mol)
How Is High Blood Sugar Treated?
For emergency cases of hyperglycemia, you should seek emergency medical help. To lower blood sugar to a normal level, the following procedures may be done:
- Fluid replacement – You may be given fluids orally or intravenously in order to replace fluids lost due to excessive urination and to dilute extra sugar in the blood.
- Electrolyte replacement – Electrolytes will be administered to you intravenously to help your heart, muscles and nerves function.
- Insulin therapy – You may receive insulin intravenously to reverse processes causing ketone to accumulate in your blood.
Depending on the causes of your severe hyperglycemia, your doctor may recommend additional treatment.
If it is believed to be due to bacterial infection, he or she may prescribe antibiotics. If a heart attack is likely, your doctor may recommend a heart check-up.
Lifestyle Changes and Home Remedies
Those with diabetes will need to manage their diet and lifestyle to keep blood sugar levels at an ideal level. This involves constant monitoring and regular physical activity.
Healthy Weight Maintenance
Discuss with your doctor what your ideal weight should be before beginning any weight loss routine.
Avoid food that contains simple carbohydrates (e.g., cookies, crackers) which can increase insulin levels and place stress on the pancreas. Avoid saturated fats as well. Opt instead for whole, unprocessed foods (e.g., fruits, vegetables).
Simple physical activities such as brisk walking for 30 minutes can significantly lower blood glucose levels.
Mineral Levels Check
Magnesium helps insulin become more effective and helps prevent you becoming insulin-tolerant.
Insulin Levels Check
Make sure to get regular insulin checks along with blood sugar tests.
Home Monitoring of Blood Sugar
Routinely measure your blood sugar level with a blood glucose meter. Studies have shown that those with diabetes who maintain normal or near-normal blood sugar levels are less at risk for diabetes-related complications.
This will help you determine if your treatment plan is working. Check as often as recommended by your doctor. If you are experiencing any symptoms of high blood sugar levels, measure it.
When blood sugar levels reach 240 mg/dL, check your urine for ketones with an over-the-counter urine ketones test kit. If it comes out positive, seek medical help to reduce blood sugar level safely.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Learn more about Type 2 Diabetes here.
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