Hyperglycemia: Symptoms, Causes and prevention

Hyperglycemia definition

Hyperglycemia is a condition where there is too much sugar in the blood due to a lack of insulin in the body. Hyperglycemia affects people who have diabetes. There are multiple factors that cause hyperglycemia in people with diabetes, including food and physical activity choices, illness, non-diabetes medications, or skipping or not taking enough glucose-lowering medication. 

illness due to diabetes

2 main types of hyperglycemia are 

  • Fasting hyperglycemia
  • Postprandial or after meal hyperglycemia

Frequent increase in blood sugar level due to hyperglycemia may cause damage to your nerves, blood vessels and organs, it can also lead to other health effects. 

high blood sugar

People with type 1 diabetes are more easily affected by the buildup of ketones in the body, a condition called ketoacidosis. For people with type 2 diabetes, extremely high blood sugar can lead to a fatal condition in which their body can’t process sugar. This condition is known as a hyperglycemic hyperosmolar nonketotic syndrome (HHNS). When a person is suffering from this condition, they tend to urinate a lot at first and then urinate very less, but the urine will become very dark and the person will be dehydrated. It is important to treat this condition, if left untreated, it would lead to serious complications requiring emergency care, such as a diabetic coma. 

Hyperglycemia Symptoms 

Hyperglycemia doesn’t show any symptoms until the blood sugar level shoots up above 180-200 mg/dl. Symptoms develop slowly over a time period of a week. The longer the blood sugar level is high, the symptoms become more serious. At times, when a person has type 2 diabetes for a long time, the symptoms may not be shown despite having elevated blood sugar levels. 

Earlier signs of hyperglycemia include 

  • Thirst
  • Headaches
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Blurred vision
  • Frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Blood sugar more than 180mg/dL

Later signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia are 

  • Fruity smelling breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Coma
  • Abdominal pain

Ongoing hyperglycemia symptoms are 

  • Vaginal and skin infections
  • Slow healing of cuts and sores
  • Worse vision
  • Nerve damage causing painful, cold feet, loss of hair or erectile dysfunction Causes of hyperglycemia

When a person eats something, digestion takes place. During digestion, your body breaks down all the complex food particles into various sugar molecules. Amongst these sugar molecules, one of the main sugar molecules is glucose, the main energy source for your body. This glucose is directly absorbed into your bloodstream after you eat, but in order to enter the cells, it requires insulin. When there is an increase in the blood glucose level, the body automatically sends a signal to the pancreas thus making it produce insulin. This insulin unlocks your cell so that the glucose can enter your cell and produce the required amount of energy to function properly. 

Excess glucose is stored in the form of glycogen in the liver and muscles. This process ensures that the level of glucose in the bloodstream is correct. Diabetes has a drastic effect on reducing the effect of insulin in the body. This might be because your pancreas is unable to produce the required amount of insulin, or in some cases, it may be resistant to the effects of insulin. As a result, glucose tends to build in your body which causes hyperglycemia. If not treated properly, the blood glucose level may reach dangerously high levels and in such cases, insulin or other similar drugs are used to lower the blood sugar levels. 

Difference between hyperglycemia and diabetes

Characteristics  Hyperglycemia  Diabetes
Definition  Abnormally high blood sugar levels A disease in which blood sugar is not properly regulated
causes  Diabetes, pancreatitis, neonatal problems, medication reaction Autoimmune problems, unhealthy diet and sedentary lifestyle, smoking and alcohol, obesity, etc
symptoms  Excessive thirst, frequent 

urination, weight loss, nausea, vision problems and fatigue

Excessive thirst, frequent urination, weight loss, extreme hunger, nausea, fatigue, vision problems, fruity breath, dry skin, abdominal


pain, rapid breathing and shortness of breath
monitoring  Monitoring is required in case any of the symptoms are observed to avoid the complications both short term and long term. Diabetes always requires long term monitoring of blood sugar levels
complications  Harmful to all organs, damages nerves Harmful to all organs, damages nerves, ketoacidosis, 

hypoglycemia, coma and death

How to prevent hyperglycemia? 

To prevent hyperglycemia from affecting a person, they must try to keep their blood sugar levels near normal or at euglycemia. Here are a few suggestions that will help you keep your blood sugar level normal. 

Follow a healthy diet: the diet should contain adequate amounts of carbohydrate both simple and complex. Small frequent meals to be consumed, If a person is taking a regular dosage of insulin, it is very important to eat the right amount at proper intervals. The amount of food you take must be in balance with your insulin. 

Regular monitoring of blood sugar level: it is very important for people with hyperglycemia to monitor their blood sugar level regularly Only then will they know whether their condition is getting better or worse and can treat it accordingly. 

Other simple ways to prevent hyperglycemia 

  • Taking your insulin (or glucose-lowering medication) as prescribed
  • Avoiding consumption of too many calories (i.e., sugary beverages)
  • Consuming the right types and grams of carbohydrates
  • Controlling stress

ways to prevent hyperglycemia

  • Staying active (exercising)
  • Consulting your doctor regularly 

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