What is Hyperglycemia?

Individuals who have hyperglycemia have an unusually high blood sugar level. This condition is a typical sign of prediabetes and diabetes. Other health conditions that cause a high glucose reading include pancreatitis, Cushing’s syndrome and an overactive thyroid. Hyperglycemia occurs when a person has a limited amount of insulin in their body or when their body is unable to sufficiently utilize insulin. A person’s glucose level is measured by testing a sample of blood.

Individuals can keep track of their own glucose levels at home by placing a drop of blood on a test strip and inserting the test strip into a handheld glucose meter.

What are the Symptoms of Hyperglycemia?

When individuals have hyperglycemia, they have the urge to urinate numerous times throughout the day and they are often thirsty.

Additional symptoms include blurry vision, headaches, problems with concentration and feeling tired. If the condition advances without treatment, other symptoms will appear due to the accumulation of toxic acids in the urine and blood. Advanced symptoms include pain in the abdomen, upset stomach, vomiting, dry mouth and a fruity odor on the breath. Becoming easily confused and feeling short of breath are also signs of advanced hyperglycemia.

Hyperglycemia Causes

The most common cause of hyperglycemia is diabetes. Both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes can cause hyperglycemia. In people with type 1 diabetes, the body produces little to no insulin, and so it cannot effectively remove glucose from the blood. In people with type 2 diabetes, the body may also not produce enough insulin, or it may not be able to use the insulin it does produce as effectively.

Some other conditions can cause hyperglycemia. Cushing’s syndrome can trigger hyperglycemia due to high cortisol levels and high blood pressure. Pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer can cause hyperglycemia by disrupting the normal production of insulin in the pancreas. Hyperglycemia can also be caused by hormone-secreting tumors and certain medications.

Extreme levels of stress as caused by heart attacks, strokes, trauma or severe illnesses can also trigger hyperglycemia.

How is Hyperglycemia Treated?

Individuals who have mild hyperglycemia can often treat or manage the condition by implementing various lifestyle changes. Dietary changes, such as avoiding the consumption of foods and beverages that contain sugar, will help to keep glucose levels under control. Exercising every day can also help maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Individuals who have hyperglycemia, due to diabetes, are prescribed medications and they may also need daily insulin injections.

When a person has a high fever and vision loss, along with an astronomical blood sugar level, emergency treatment is needed immediately. Emergency treatment may include administering fluids and electrolytes as well as doses of insulin.

Hyperglycemia Prevention

Hyperglycemia is typically a symptom of another condition, so prevention relies on the proper treatment of the other illness.

In the case of type 1 diabetes, prevention involves proper management of blood glucose levels through your diet, activity level, and how much insulin you take. For example, if you are normally very active, but then reduce your activity levels without adjusting your diet or insulin doses, you will end up with higher blood glucose levels. Likewise, if you eat more carbohydrates than usual without making the proper adjustments, you may also enter a hyperglycemic state.

In people with type 2 diabetes, blood glucose levels can be controlled by eating a healthy diet, losing weight if you are obese, and limiting alcohol consumption. Exercise is also very effective in preventing hypoglycemia because it increases insulin sensitivity. Higher insulin sensitivity means that the body can remove more glucose from the blood even with the same amount of insulin.

Because hyperglycemia can also be caused by high levels of stress and high cortisol levels, reducing your stress levels will also help to prevent hyperglycemia.

Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
January 12, 2018