What is Hyperglycemia?

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Hyperglycemia is the medical term for high blood sugar, which arises due to the body’s inability to remove glucose from the blood so that cells can use it for energy. The condition usually only affects people with diabetes because these individuals have problems with insulin – the hormone required for glucose uptake.

Symptoms

Hyperglycemia symptoms tend to develop over the course of several weeks and may include the following:

  • Dry mouth and increased thirst leading to frequent intake of water. This is referred to as polydipsia.
  • Increased urination, particularly at night, which is referred to as polyuria.
  • Increased hunger and food intake, which is referred to as polyphagia.
  • Fatigue

Further symptoms that may eventually develop include blurred vision, weight loss, nerve damage, kidney problems and heart problems.

Causes

People who have diabetes are unable to break glucose down into energy due either to an inadequate level of insulin or insulin failing to work properly. This means glucose remains in the blood causing a high blood sugar level. Diabetes occurs in two forms, type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes

Also called insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM), type 1 diabetes describes a condition where the body fails to produce an adequate level of insulin. Individuals with this condition require lifelong insulin treatment.

Type 2 diabetes

Also called non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), type 2 diabetes describes a condition where the body either fails to produce an adequate level of insulin or the insulin that is produced is not used properly (insulin resistance). This type of diabetes is often linked to overweight or obesity and usually affects people over the age of 40.

Diagnosis and treatment

Diagnosis is made based on symptoms and a blood sugar test. The insulin treatment for type 1 diabetes is available in several forms including long-acting, short-acting and rapid-acting therapies. A person with type 1 diabetes will probably receive a combination of these different preparations. The insulin needs to be injected and people with type 1 diabetes are usually given an insulin pen, also called an auto-injecter.

People who have type 2 diabetes or at risk of developing the condition are asked to make lifestyle, exercise and dietary changes to bring their blood sugar level down. Although these changes may improve the blood sugar level, people with type 2 diabetes may eventually require medication to control their condition. Examples of these medications include metformin, sulphonylureas, glitazones, gliptins and acarbose.

Reviewed by , BSc

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jan 12, 2015

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