Hyperglycemia, alternatively known as high blood sugar, is derived from Greek particles in which the hyper means excessive, glyc refers to sweet, and emia means the blood. This medical condition us often associated with diabetes mellitus, as high blood sugar is the defining characteristic of diabetes. In otherwise healthy people, hyperglycemia is typically benign and asymptomatic but for people who suffer from it chronically it can be very dangerous even with mild blood sugar increases. Some of the most commonly reported symptoms include but are not limited to: a frequent need to eat, drink, and urinate, dry mouth and skin, fatigue, and even slipping into a coma.
If we are to truly understand this disorder a discussion of its causes, effects, and treatments would be most prudent. Glucose is the medical term for sugars in our blood that help fuel the body. For this reason, high blood sugar is most commonly referred to in medical communities as high blood glucose. The level of glucose in our bodies naturally fluctuates throughout the day, influenced mostly by food consumption and the varying states of rest or exertion. It is measured in milligrams per deciliter which is rendered as mg/dl. Difficult is the task of determining a baseline normal mg/dl due to the fact that we all have different physiologies and of course that it is constantly in flux throughout the day. Nevertheless, most medical professionals agree that a person suffers from hyperglycemia if their mg/dl is routinely 126 or higher.
Aside from diabetes mellitus, there are three primary causes of high blood sugar which include drugs, critical illness, and physiological stress. Certain drugs will cause noted increases in blood glucose. Some examples include epinephrine, beta-blockers, corticosteroids, and niacin. A stroke can often induce hyperglycemia in patients with no history of high blood glucose or diabetes; other critical ailments can have the same effect. Certain physiological stresses will also sometimes cause hyperglycemia but the effects are most often temporary and should not necessarily indicate diabetes. But, as previously mentioned, diabetes is the single greatest cause of hyperglycemia.
There are two types of diabetes mellitus which are commonly distinguished as type one and type two. In type one diabetes, the patient’s body is not able to produce enough insulin. Insulin is the chemical which converts glucose into glycogen, which is another necessary energy based starch. In type two diabetes, the patient’s body has developed cellular resistance to insulin. In either case, high blood sugar and the effects of hyperglycemia result as the body becomes polluted with glucose. In cases where high blood sugar is an isolated event, or not likely to happen again regularly, there is little to no damage done by even very high glucose levels over a long duration. For this reason, it is not of great concern when seen as a result of certain drug use, critical illness, or physiological stress provided that the cause can be quickly treated and cured allowing cessation of the stimulus. If any of these becomes chronic, as in the case of diabetes, serious problems can arise. Even at levels slightly higher than normal, a chronic sufferer of hyperglycemia can develop kidney damage, neurological damage, or cardiovascular damage over a period of months, years, or decades.
To avoid or cure the deleterious effects of high blood sugar, insulin is most commonly used. It helps regulate the hyperglycemia and hopefully prevent glucose levels from getting too high in the first place. Sadly, people with type one diabetes are predisposed to getting it and there isn’t much that can be done about it. But type two diabetes usually develops as a result of poor lifestyle choices which can easily be avoided. In either case, smart choices such as healthy diet and exercise can help minimize problems with blood glucose levels. Healthy choices in conjunction with careful monitoring of blood glucose levels and insulin use are the best methods for treating this disorder. A healthcare provider is the best person to consult in determining if you are at risk for hyperglycemia and also for seeking treatment methods to help regulate the malady.