High Blood Sugar

Hyperglycemia is a condition in which blood sugar levels rise above normal.  High blood sugar is sometimes indicative of diabetes, but this isn’t always the case.  When the body cannot produce enough insulin or is not responding to the insulin the body produces, high blood sugar occurs.

Naturally, the body is quite proficient at regulating blood sugar levels.  As the blood sugar rises, a signal is sent to the pancreas to trigger the release of insulin which helps filter the sugar from the blood into the body’s cells.  This process creates cellular energy and is the powerhouse of the body.  For someone suffering from diabetes, the glucose is unable to enter cells adequately and remains in the blood.

Mild hyperglycemia can go unnoticed and can, over time, cause severe damage to the body’s brain, kidney, and arteries.  Severe hyperglycemia can cause coma, dehydration, and even death.  Symptoms of hyperglycemia include high blood glucose levels, sugar in the urine, repeated urination, and thirst.  If you feel like you have any of these symptoms, then quickly seek medical attention.  Diabetes is diagnosed if blood sugars stay high for long periods of time despite lifestyle changes.  If hyperglycemia is suspected, monitoring blood glucose will be helpful in determining whether hyperglycemia is causing symptoms and how to go about treating the condition.

High blood sugar is often caused by problems with the liver or pancreas, diabetic medications, eating too much sugar, not getting enough exercise, sickness and stress.  Blood sugar levels can spike on occasion based on environmental and lifestyle factors.  If blood sugar levels are elevated for a long period of time or frequently, your healthcare team should be able to devise a plan to treat the cause of the sugar spikes.

Leaving hyperglycemia untreated can lead to serious complications.  The first symptoms of high blood sugar include dry mouth and thirst, blurred vision, itchy skin, drowsiness, weight loss, and increased appetite.  Dehydration can occur if blood sugar remains elevated for long periods.  Coma and death are the most serious side affects.  Untreated hyperglycemia can also cause a life-threatening condition called ketoacidosis, in which ketone increases to dangerous levels.  Shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, dry mouth, and stomach pain are symptoms.  Ketoacidosis is life-threatening and requires urgent medical attention.

Managing blood sugar levels can be accomplished through lifestyle changes in diet, physical activity, and medication.  Sometimes, people with diabetes may be prescribed insulin if oral medications do not work to bring down blood sugar levels.  Diet is usually the first change made to bring down blood sugar.  Avoiding high-fat meals and snacks of simple sugars and carbohydrates, replacing refined grains with whole grains, and eating plenty of fiber in the form of fruits and vegetables will decrease blood sugar.

Regardless of whether or not high blood sugar is linked to diabetes, it is a serious condition.  Those experiencing the symptoms of high blood sugar and those at higher risk due to diabetes should consult their physician team regularly regarding glucose levels.  If left unchecked, the damage done by hyperglycemia can be irreversible.