High Blood Sugar

High blood sugar, known clinically as hyperglycemia, is a serious medical condition. Milder cases can do great harm to the body over time but extreme cases are considered a medical emergency and must be treated as soon as possible. Some of the milder symptoms include a frequent need to eat, drink, or urinate. Other symptoms include fatigue, blurred vision, and persistent dry mouth and skin. Some of the most sever symptoms include getting recurrent infections, being unable to heal wounds in normal lengths of time, and finally slipping into a coma. To better understand this malady, a discussion of hyperglycemia’s causes, effects, and treatments is in order.

Glucose, or the sugar in our bodies causing hyperglycemia, is measured in milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl.) The levels of these sugars vary throughout the day and are especially influenced by food intake. For this reason it is hard to determine a baseline normal range for a given individual, however any person who consistently has a 126 mg/dl or more is thought to suffer from hyperglycemia. There are four primary causes of hyperglycemia: diabetes mellitus, drugs, critical illness, and physiological stress. In all of these causes, the body’s glucose level has risen above the threshold of 126 mg/dl. In the case of diabetes mellitus, chronic hyperglycemia is the primary symptom. What actually happens in diabetes mellitus is that either the body’s insulin level falls too low or that the body has built up cellular resistance to insulin, due to either type 1 or type 2 diabetes respectively. In either case, it makes it impossible for the body to convert the glucose into glycogen, another energy based starch. This effectively causes the bloodstream to be polluted with glucose, which the bloodstream normally only carries in minimum doses.

The three remaining primary causes occur for varying reasons, but the end result is the same. Certain drugs such as beta-blockers, epinephrine, corticosteroids, niacin and amphetamines increase the risk of developing hyperglycemia. Serious illnesses such as a stroke can also cause hyperglycemia with no evidence of diabetes. Physiological stress will also cause the level of bloodstream glucose to rise but the effect is most often temporary and should not necessarily indicate either hyperglycemia or diabetes. Hyperglycemia, when temporary, is not necessarily a health risk. Glucose levels can rise well above normal levels and cause little or no symptoms or damage for long durations of time. Although people with chronic hyperglycemia can do tremendous damage to themselves by being just a bit higher than normal over a period of years or decades. Some of the problems that can develop include cardiovascular damage, kidney damage, and neurological damage.

The treatment of hyperglycemia necessarily involves removing the excess glucose from the blood, usually through the use of insulin.  One of the most effective means of doing so involves preventative measures such as avoiding the build-up in the first place. For this reason, patients with diabetes carefully monitor the glucose levels in their blood while also monitoring what foods they intake. Type 1 diabetes sufferers are genetically predisposed to the disease and will develop it despite their actions. However, in most cases, type 2 diabetes can be avoided altogether through healthy diet and exercise. Hyperglycemia is a serious illness that must be properly attended to. But through careful lifestyle choices it can be avoided or at the very least managed. A healthcare provider can best determine if the condition exists and also what the best way to treat it is.