Hyperglycemia is a major cause of many of the complications that happen to people who have diabetes. For this reason, it's important to know what hyperglycemia is, what its symptoms are, and how to treat it.

WHAT IS HYPERGLYCEMIA? (HIGH BLOOD SUGAR)

  • You have diabetes, which means you have to deal with some of the problems that go along with having the disease. One of those problems is hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia happens from time to time to all people who have diabetes.
  • Hyperglycemia can be a serious problem if you don't treat it.

WHAT IS HYPERGLYCEMIA?

  • Hyperglycemia is the technical term for high blood sugar. High blood sugar happens when the body has too little, or not enough, insulin or when the body can't use insulin properly.
  • A number of things can cause hyperglycemia. For example, if you have type 1 diabetes, you may not have given yourself enough insulin. If you have type 2 diabetes, your body may have enough insulin, but it is not as effective as it should be.
  • The problem could be that you ate more than planned or exercised less than planned. The stress of an illness, such as a cold or flu, could also be the cause. Other stresses, such as family conflicts or school or dating problems, could also cause hyperglycemia.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF HYPERGLYCEMIA?

  • The signs and symptoms include: high blood sugar, high levels of sugar in the urine, frequent urination, and increased thirst.
  • Part of keeping your diabetes in control is testing your blood sugar often. Ask your doctor how often you should test and what your blood sugar levels should be. Testing your blood and then treating high blood sugar early will help you avoid the other symptoms of hyperglycemia.
  • It's important to treat hyperglycemia as soon as you detect it. If you fail to treat hyperglycemia, a condition called ketoacidosis (diabetic coma) could occur. Ketoacidosis develops when your body doesn't have enough insulin. Without insulin, your body can't use glucose for fuel. So, your body breaks down fats to use for energy.
  • When your body breaks down fats, waste products called ketones are produced. Your body cannot tolerate large amounts of ketones and will try to get rid of them through the urine.
  • Unfortunately, the body cannot release all the ketones and they build up in your blood. This can lead to ketoacidosis.
  • Ketoacidosis is life-threatening and needs immediate treatment. Symptoms include: shortness of breath, breath that smells fruity, nausea and vomiting, and a very dry mouth. Talk to your doctor about how to handle this condition.

HOW DO YOU TREAT HYPERGLYCEMIA?

  • Often, you can lower your blood sugar level by exercising. However, if your blood sugar is above 240 mg/dl, check your urine for ketones. If you have ketones, do NOT exercise.
  • Exercising when ketones are present may make your blood-sugar level go even higher. You'll need to work with your doctor to find the safest way for you to lower your blood sugar level.
  • Cutting down on the amount of food you eat might also help. Work with your dietitian to make changes in your meal plan. If exercise and changes in your diet don't work, your doctor may change the amount of your medication or insulin or possibly the timing of when you take it.

HOW DO YOU PREVENT HYPERGLYCEMIA?

Your best bet is to practice good diabetes control. The trick is learning to detect and treat hyperglycemia early -- before it can get worse.
This material is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for the medical advice of your doctor or any other health care professional. Always consult with your physician if you are in any way concerned about your health.

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