Hyperglycemia is what happens when there is too much sugar in the blood. For people living with diabetes, the body either has too little insulin, or loses the ability to process insulin properly. This often results in hyperglycemia, also known as high blood glucose (BG) or high blood sugar.
A major goal of managing diabetes is to avoid high BGs as much as possible and to properly treat hyperglycemia as soon as it is noticed. Hyperglycemia can cause serious complications when left untreated. For people living with diabetes, blood sugar is considered "high" when it rises above 180 mg/dL. High blood sugars are most common after meals and can be dangerous if untreated.
Glucose levels can rise too high for many reasons. Here are just a few:
Most hyperglycemia occurs when there is some insulin in the body, but not enough to keep glucose levels within your target range.
Hyperglycemia symptoms can appear when glucose levels are elevated. Symptoms will typically develop over the course of days or weeks, and can include1,2:
Early recognition of symptoms and consistently checking your blood sugar are important actions for treating hyperglycemia.
When hyperglycemia occurs, you should take insulin to lower your blood sugar. Other effective ways of lowering blood sugar include, exercise and making necessary changes to your diet. If your blood sugar is elevated above 240 mg/dl, you should check your urine for ketones, as exercising with ketones in your system can further elevate your blood sugar.
Your doctor may also propose changes to your medication or insulin as a means of treating hyperglycemia.
Left untreated, hyperglycemia can pose serious health risks. Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a major complication that can result from hyperglycemia.
As this condition can cause your body to create a surplus of ketones, you may be unable to release them effectively, leading to ketoacidosis. You should seek immediate treatment if you experience any of these symptoms:
The best way to avoid hyperglycemia is to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range. Adhering to your diabetes treatment plan and monitoring your blood sugar are important daily steps to take.
A healthy diet plan and timing your meals can help to avoid hyperglycemia, particularly if you take insulin or medication. Exercise can also lower your blood sugar levels – consult with your doctor to see if a more active lifestyle could benefit you.
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