Is Hyperglycaemia Serious
The aim of diabetes treatment is to keep blood sugar levels as near to normal as possible. But if you have diabetes, no matter how careful you are, youâre likely to experience hyperglycaemia at some point.
Itâs important to be able to recognise and treat hyperglycaemia, as it can lead to serious health problems if left untreated.
Occasional mild episodes arenât usually a cause for concern and can be treated quite easily or may return to normal on their own. However, hyperglycaemia can be potentially dangerous if blood sugar levels become very high or stay high for long periods.
Very high blood sugar levels can cause life-threatening complications, such as:
- diabetic ketoacidosis a condition caused by the body needing to break down fat as a source of energy, which can lead to a diabetic coma this tends to affect people with type 1 diabetes
- hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state severe dehydration caused by the body trying to get rid of excess sugar this tends to affect people with type 2 diabetes
Regularly having high blood sugar levels for long periods of time can result in permanent damage to parts of the body such as the eyes, nerves, kidneys and blood vessels.
If you experience hyperglycaemia regularly, speak to your doctor or diabetes care team. You may need to change your treatment or lifestyle to keep your blood sugar levels within a healthy range.
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Tingling Hands And Feet
Over the years, hyperglycemia can begin to impact nerve function and eventually cause nerve damage, called neuropathy, Dr. Hatipoglu says. The most common kind of neuropathy is peripheral, according to the NIDDK, which affects the extremities. You might start noticing feelings of tingling, numbness, or burning in your hands, feet, arms, and legs, per the Mayo Clinic.
Youre Getting Yeast Infections More Often Than Usual
Hyperglycemia may lead you to get more frequent genital yeast infections. The culprit is often a type of yeast known as Candida albicans, per the ADA. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in females the symptoms can include: vaginal itching, redness or soreness pain during sexual intercourse pain or discomfort during urination and thick, abnormal vaginal discharge. While yeast infections are common in people who dont have diabetes, having more glucose in your blood puts you at higher risk of getting them. The yeast feeds off the glucose, and if your blood sugar is high theres more glucose in the urinary tract, explains Bandukwala. Uncircumcised men with hyperglycemia are also at risk, he says.
Were also seeing this happen a little more now with patients who take SGLT-2 inhibitors, which force the body to expel more glucose through the urine, the endocrinologist adds. The FDA has added a warning to the prescribing information for SGLT-2 inhibitors about a far more rare and potentially fatal genital condition, known as necrotizing fasciitis of the perineum, or Fourniers gangrene .
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How Do You Fix A Blood Sugar Spike
Blood sugar spikes can be more easily corrected if you take insulin, but they can be corrected without insulin as well.
Hyperglycemia and blood sugar spikes cant always be quickly fixed. Therefore, the more important thing is being able to prevent them from happening.
You can help promote healthy blood sugar levels by getting some physical activity. Physical activity helps improve insulin sensitivity and can lower your blood glucose levels.
If youre experiencing a blood sugar spike, be sure to avoid drinking sugary drinks or eating high-sugar and high-carbohydrate foods.
Some examples of foods that are very low or free of carbohydrates include:
- Tingling or numbness of the lips, tongue, or cheek
If you do develop hypoglycemia symptoms after a blood sugar spike, be careful not to over-correct the low blood sugar, which can cause another blood sugar spike.
Preventing Blood Sugar Spikes
There are additional ways to prevent blood sugar spikes.
Monitor blood sugar levels. The first step in preventing blood sugar spikes is knowing what your blood sugar levels are in the first place. Especially if you take a medication that directly affects your blood sugar level, such as insulin, you should be checking your blood sugar level often.
A good starting place is checking your blood sugar level every morning before you eatthis is called a fasting blood sugar level. This once-per-day testing might be sufficient for some people with type 2 diabetes. However, others may need to check their blood sugar level up to 10 times daily.
Choose whole grains. Compared to refined grains, whole grains contain the entire grain, including the fibrous outer layer called the bran and the nutrient-rich inner core called the germ. Choosing to eat whole grains ensures you get the most nutrients out of your grains.
Because fiber isnt absorbed and broken down in the body like other carbohydrates, it doesnt result in a big blood sugar spike.
Balance meals with fat and protein. You can help prevent blood sugar spikes by balancing your meals with fat and protein in addition to carbohydrates.
Meals that contain only carbohydrates are easily broken down into glucose and sent into your bloodstream. Fat and protein help slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and, in turn, their absorption into the bloodstream.
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Treating Low Blood Glucose If You Take Medicines That Slow Down Digestion
Some diabetes medicines slow down the digestion of carbohydrates to keep blood glucose levels from rising too high after you eat. If you develop low blood glucose while taking these medicines, you will need to take glucose tablets or glucose gel right away. Eating or drinking other sources of carbohydrates wont raise your blood glucose level quickly enough.
You Have Noticeably Blurry Vision And Frequent Headaches
You may notice that your vision isnt as clear as it used to be and that things may appear a bit blurry. High blood sugar levels can lead to swollen lenses in your eye from fluid leaking in, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. This changes the shape of the lens, which makes it unable to properly focus, causing blurred vision. You may also find yourself struggling at work, having difficulty driving, and suffering from frequent headaches, Emanuele notes.
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Symptoms Of A Blood Sugar Spike
The longer your blood sugar levels stay elevated, the more symptoms you are likely to develop, and the more damage is being done to your body. While there are some hallmark symptoms of high blood sugar levels , they can vary from person to person.
Learning to recognize your individual symptoms of high blood sugar early on can help minimize any damage to your body and keep your diabetes in control.
Common symptoms of high blood sugar include:
- Frequent urination
- Numbness or tingling in your hands or feet
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, get your blood sugar level tested. It can be as simple as a small finger poke but can go a long way in helping you manage your blood sugar levels.
If you do not have diabetes and are experiencing any of these symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as you can to get your blood sugar levels tested. Early identification of high blood sugar levels and diabetes can save your life.
Try To Maintain A Healthy Weight
If youre considered overweight, losing weight might help stabilize your blood sugar levels and prevent blood sugar spikes.
Losing 5-10% of your initial body weight can help prevent diabetes for at-risk people and can improve blood glucose control if you already have diabetes. For a 200-pound person, that would equal a 10-20 pound weight loss.
Weight loss improves insulin sensitivity and can help your body better control your blood sugar levels.
The most important thing about weight loss is to do it sustainably. If you start following a restrictive diet or make other lifestyle changes that are difficult to maintain, you likely wont benefit from the weight loss long-term.
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How Do I Prevent Hyperglycemia
- Exercise to help lower blood sugar. Work with your healthcare provider to make a daily activity plan.
- Follow your meal plan if you have one. Learn how carbohydrates impact your blood sugar, and work with your diabetes care team to find the best meal plan for you.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Limit drinking alcohol. Alcohol can raise blood sugar levels, but can also cause dangerously low blood sugar levels. Work with your provider to determine how much is safe to drink.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/11/2020.
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Eliminate Whats Stressing You Out
While this seems obvious, it should be your first plan of action. You might not be able to completely avoid the stress, but you could reduce it by brainstorming alternatives and problem solving. If you want to avoid rush-hour traffic, try leaving at a different time or adopt a new route. If a relationship is troubling you, see if you can make amends. If you find you cannot accomplish tasks at hand, find new ways to get organized.
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Being Dehydrated When You Have Diabetes
Having a temperature or being sick can lead to dehydration. In some cases, severe dehydration and very high blood sugar levels can mean that you need to go into hospital.
So its important to be prepared and follow our advice on coping when you’re sick. You might want to give this information to a friend or family member, so they can help you if you get sick.
Being Extra Thirsty And Having To Urinate More Than Usual
This is a common but not-so-obvious sign of blood sugar that is too high: feeling really thirsty and needing to drink more than usual. Excessive urination, known as polyuria, occurs when glucose builds up in your blood, and your kidneys begin working harder to get rid of the extra glucose, says Zanini. If your kidneys cant keep up and adjust blood sugar so that it returns to a normal level, the excess sugar is flushed out of your body through urine, she adds. You may become dehydrated and get dizzy.
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Watch Out For The Infamous Dawn Phenomenon
It’s not uncommon to wake up to a high blood sugar reading, even if your number was in the green zone when you went to bed. You may be experiencing the “dawn phenomenon,” which occurs when the body preps for waking up by releasing cortisol and other hormones, between 2 and 8 a.m., according to the Mayo Clinic.
These hormones make the body less sensitive to insulin, and in people with diabetes, can contribute to a morning blood sugar spike. Alternatively, you may start the day with a low glucose level if, for example, you’re taking too much insulin or medication at night or not eating enough in the evening, McDermott says. She notes that eating a small, protein-rich, low-carb snack at bedtime can sometime help by shortening the fast .
If you see a trend in your morning readings or they’re highly erratic from day to day you’ll want to work with your doctor or diabetes educator to identify the problem so you can take steps to correct it, says Bonsignore.
Swollen Or Bleeding Gums Which Increase Your Infection Risk
Gum disease is a complication of diabetes, notes the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. It can also make diabetes harder to control, because the bodys response to infection is to release more glucose into the bloodstream, according to the ADA.
Your saliva contains glucose and the more it contains, the more there is to feed the bacteria that combine with food in your mouth to form plaque and cause gum disease. Symptoms can include red or inflamed gums at first. If they are unaddressed, they can progress to periodontitis, which can cause your gums to pull away from your teeth, the appearance of pus or ulcers, or even tooth loss, notes the Mayo Clinic. Get your blood sugar under control and see a dental professional to prevent damage to your gums and teeth.
Additional reporting by Diana Rodriguez and Andrea Peirce.
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What Causes Hyperglycemia In People With Diabetes
- The dose of insulin or oral diabetes medication that you are taking is not the most helpful dose for your needs.
- Your body isnt using your natural insulin effectively .
- The amount of carbohydrates you are eating or drinking is not balanced with the amount of insulin your body is able to make or the amount of insulin you inject.
- You are less active than usual.
- Physical stress is affecting you.
- Emotional stress is affecting you.
- You are taking steroids for another condition.
- The dawn phenomenon is affecting you.
Other possible causes
Sudden Spikes In Blood Sugar Overnight Are Something That Diabetics Dont Want To Ever Experience
Something like this happening blood sugar soaring while youre sound asleep and totally unaware is a frightening thought.
But people who do not have diabetes dont have to worry about very high rises in blood sugar during sleep.
Actually, sugar can spike in anyone, but in people with normal sugar metabolism, no one notices, says Susan L. Besser, MD, with Mercy Medical Center, Baltimore, and Diplomate American Board of Obesity Medicine and board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine.
The cause is normal fluctuation in body glucose and metabolism, continues Dr. Besser.
Even though we are asleep at night, the body is still working, still using energy.
At night we arent eating while we sleep , so the body has to use stored sugar to feed itself.
These stores are found in the liver and are released through a hormonal process. In most of us this is used immediately so the sugar doesnt spike.
In someone with diabetes, glycogen is converted to blood sugar , and this happens with everyone but with diabetics the body cannot use this glucose, so the sugar rises.
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Tips To Avoid Sugar Spikes
Your body works hard to keep the sugar in your blood at a safe level. As soon as you eat that cookie or bowl of pasta, your pancreas starts putting out the hormone insulin to process the sugar youve taken in.
Too much sugar in your blood makes it thick and syrupy, which is not good. Imagine how much extra work that is for your heart as it tries to pump goopy blood around your body.
In the short term, a spike in your blood sugar will cause a sugar rush, followed by a sugar crash, with all the cravings and lethargy that go along with that.
In the long term, repeated spikes in your blood sugar can cause heart problems, kidney problems, problems with eyesight, and nerve issues like neuropathy, where you lose feeling in fingers and toes.
When we work our pancreas too much by consuming simple sugars that cause sugar spikes, its going to tell us, I’m tired, and I need a break, says dietitian Kendall Stelwagen. It cant keep up with the amount of insulin needed to deal with the sugar, and that’s when we’re going to see insulin resistance, prediabetes, Type 2 diabetes and related heart problems.
Here are four things Stelwagen and dietitian Sheila Vo want you to know about keeping your blood sugar in check.
The insulin your body releases to control the sugar actually makes us hungry, so after your sugar spike, you’re going to be reaching for more things to eat, says Stelwagen.
Lack of sleep will also affect your bodys ability to use insulin to keep blood sugar down.
Hypoglycemia Signs And Symptoms
The symptoms of low blood sugar levels may differ from person to person and from one episode to the next.
The first time you experience low blood sugar, you may have specific symptoms, but they may be different the next time. The following are early signs that your blood sugar levels are dropping too low.
- Tingling or numbness of the lips, tongue, or cheek
- Irregular or fast heartbeat
If you have diabetes, it is vital to be aware of hypoglycemia and how your body responds to low blood sugar levels. Recognising the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia can help you manage it more effectively and avoid developing severe hypoglycemia.
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Irl Diabetes And Steroids Stories
The obvious caveat to all of this is that , individual diabetes experiences may vary.
When DiabetesMine reached out to the diabetes online community on this topic, dozens replied saying theyd experienced huge jumps in blood sugar after using various types of steroids.
Laura Higgins of Utah, whos lived with T1D for almost two decades since age 13, says shes seen big BG spikes after being on steroids several times through the years. But she knew the risks and worked with her diabetes education and care specialist to best manage those fluctuations.
Her partner had a different story, however. He was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a couple of years before they started dating, and earlier this year an urgent care doctor prescribed steroids for bronchitis, without even inquiring or looking at his chart, and not explaining the blood-sugar risks and potential for diabetes ketoacidosis .
By this time I had coached him into how to manage his diabetes and he was testing with all these crazy numbers over 400 mg/dL, she says. She noted that with her backup Novolog insulin pen she had taught him to use, her husband was dosing 30+ units to bring his numbers down to more manageable levels.
He finished the steroids and I got him in with the primary care doctor that my manages my type 1 because I was so appalled at the negligence, she tells DiabetesMine.
Others echoing similar experiences preferred to have their names withheld: