What is Hyperglycemia? And what should you know about high blood sugar

(Last Updated On: February 4, 2018)

Hyperglycemia is a hallmark of diabetes



yperglycemia is when your blood glucose (BG) is higher then the normal standard of 100mg /dL. If your BG is higher then 130mg/dL. while fasting you have hyperglycemia. Glucose is a good thing  and your body needs it to power all the cells in the body. Your life depend on glucose but too much glucose circulating in your blood can be toxic. Glucose should be absorbed by your cells as soon as is made present.

Hyperglycemia is the hallmark of diabetes, and that means when the blood glucose level is excessively high and cells are not able to utilize it, or when your body is not producing enough insulin or your cells are resistant to insulin.

You produce glucose from the foods you consume. Sugars, carbohydrates, fruits, milk, potatoes, bread, and rice, are the greatest source of glucose. The body first need to break down carbohydrates into glucose and then via the bloodstream transport it to the cells. In order for the cells to use glucose they need the hormone insulin.

If you have diabetes type I your pancreas don’t produce insulin so your blood sugar is high because there is a lack of insulin. In diabetes type II you pancreas might not produce enough insulin and your cells are insulin resistant and they no longer take in insulin as they normally would so blood glucose is high because glucose in not being used by your cells.

Diabetics may become hyperglycemic if they eat high glycemic index foods such as sugars, pasta, white rice, white four or if they fail to take proper care of their diabetes management by not exercising and not performing the right treatment. In diabetes type I you may become hyperglycemic if you don’t use right amounts of insulin before meals. Non diabetics can also develop hyperglycemia. Certain medications or illnesses can cause it, including beta blockers, steroids, and bulimia. What BG levels is ideal?


Blood sugar levels may vary from person to person depending on age, pregnancy and other factors. Reading should take in account the two types of blood sugar conditions: fasting and postprandial

  • Fasting hyperglycemia is defined as when you don’t eat for at least eight hours. Recommended range with diabetes is 70 to 130mg/dL1. (The standard for measuring blood glucose is “mg/dL” which means milligrams per deciliter.)If your blood glucose level is above 130mg/dL, that’s fasting hyperglycemia. Fasting hyperglycemia is a common diabetes complication.
  • Postprandial or reactive hyperglycemia occurs after eating (postprandial means “after eating”). During this type of hyperglycemia, your liver doesn’t stop sugar production, as it normally would directly after a meal, and stores glucose as glycogen (energy sugar stores)2. If your postprandial (1-2 hours after eating) blood glucose level is above 180mg/dL, that’s postprandial or reactive hyperglycemia.

Early Hyperglycemia Symptoms
Typical symptoms may include:

  • Increased thirst and/or hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Sugar in your urine
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue

Long term complications of hyperglycemia

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Kidney damage (nephropathy) or kidney failure
  • Damage to the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy), potentially leading to blindness
  • Clouding of the normally clear lens of your eye (cataract)
  • Feet problems caused by damaged nerves or poor blood flow that can lead to serious infections
  • Bone and joint problems, such as osteoporosis
  • Skin problems, including bacterial infections, fungal infections and nonhealing wounds
  • Teeth and gum infections

Emergency complications of hyperglycemia

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis. Diabetic ketoacidosis develops when you have too little insulin in your body. Without enough insulin, sugar (glucose) can’t enter your cells for energy. Your blood sugar level rises, and your body begins to break down fat for energy.This process produces toxic acids known as ketones. Excess ketones accumulate in the blood and eventually “spill over” into the urine. Left untreated, diabetic ketoacidosis can lead to diabetic coma which is a life-threatening. Many symptoms of ketoacidosis are similar to hyperglycemia.
    • High level of ketones in the urine
    • Shortness of breath
    • Fruit-smelling breath
    • Dry mouth
    • Additionally, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and confusion may accompany ketoacidosis. Immediate medical attention is highly recommended if you have any of these symptoms.
  • Diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome. This condition occurs when people produce insulin, but it doesn’t work well. Blood glucose levels may become greater than 600 mg/dL (33 mmol/L). Because insulin is present but just not doing its job, the body can’t use either glucose but it can’t also use fat because insulin is present. Glucose is then released in the urine, causing increased urination. If left untreated, diabetic hyperosmolar syndrome can lead to coma and severe life-threatening dehydration. Seek emmediate help if you suspect having diabetic hypersmolar syndrome.You should also be able to quickly recognize the signs and symptoms of HHNS, which include:
    • Extremely high blood glucose level (over 600 mg/dL)
    • Dry mouth
    • High fever (over 101ºF)
    • Sleepiness
    • Vision loss

To avoid hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome, make sure you keep a constant tab on your BG levels when you are sick.


Treating Hyperglycemia

Hyperglycemia is not a disease and there is no treatment per se. Treating hyperglycemia is a matter of preventing blood sugar to spike and stay high. If your blood sugar is consistently high you should investigate possible causes.

  • Medication Adjustment: Your doctor may adjust your insulin (or glucose-lowering medication) dose or when you take it to help prevent hyperglycemia.
  • Meal Plan Help: A healthy diet and proper meal planning can help you avoid hyperglycemia. This includes eating often, watching intake of sugar and carbohydrates, limiting use of alcohol, and eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and whole grains. If you are having difficulty planning meals, talk to your doctor or dietitian.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise is important (even if you don’t have diabetes). Maintaining a healthy level of activity can help you keep your blood glucose level in a normal range.However, if you develop hyperglycemia and/or ketones are present in your urine, don’t exercise. Hyperglycemia and/or ketones in the urine mean exercise will cause your blood glucose to rise higher.

Preventing Hyperglycemia
The easiest way to prevent hyperglycemia is to control your diabetes. That includes knowing the early symptoms—no matter how subtle. Remember, there are many aspects of your diabetes care you can control:

  • Taking your insulin (or glucose-lowering medication) as prescribed
  • Avoiding consuming too many calories (i.e., sugary beverages)
  • Consuming the right types and grams of carbohydrates
  • Controlling stress
  • Staying active (exercising)
  • Going to your regularly scheduled doctor’s appointments

Lowering blood glucose quickly

If your blood sugar is high and you want to attempt to bring it down without insulin you may try these different quick fixes

  1. Burn off Sugar
    Use up the glucose in your bloodstream with physical movement by jogging, riding a stationary bicycle or doing some calisthenics such as jumping jacks. Swing your arms in circular movements. Keep up the activity for at least 10 minutes or more.
  2. Flush out Sugar
    Drink two 8-ounce glasses of water quickly. Wait five minutes and drink a third glass which will cause you to urinate. Water dilutes the blood and flushes out the sugar from your bloodstream.

Here are some foods and drinks that will lower your blood sugar quickly:

Bitter melon

Bitter melon is one of the best natural anti diabetic medicines there is. Its quick acting low blood sugar effects can be a great help to lower blood sugar fast when is needed so it can be used as a emergency tool. Bitter melon can also be thought as a long term remedy as well to help fight obesity and metabolic syndrome due to its anti lipids properties.

Peanut Butter
Eat 2 tablespoons of peanut butter. If you don’t want to eat it alone, put it on apple slices. It is better not to peanut butter on bread or crackers because they are carbohydrates and counterproductive to lowering your blood sugar. If you feel that you want it on bread, eat a half peanut butter sandwich. Use one slice of whole wheat bread and one or two tablespoons peanut butter.

Unsweetened Green Tea

An article suggests that drinking one cup of green tea often lowers blood sugar levels as much as 30 points. Regular black tea is also effective, and white tea helps, too. Green tea supplements also have a positive effect on blood sugar levels.

Cinnamon has been known to reduce blood sugar levels. Sprinkle a couple teaspoons of cinnamon powder on yogurt, or take it in capsule form. This doesn’t work with a huge cinnamon roll.

Red Wine
One glass of red wine can help lower your blood sugar. Do not have more than one glass of red wine. Make sure it is red wine you are having instead of white wine, beer, or any other alcoholic beverage.

According to Diabetes In Control, 2 tablespoons of vinegar before a meal even as part of a vinaigrette salad dressing will dramatically reduce the spike in blood concentrations of insulin and glucose.

Almonds or Pecans
Eating a 1/2 cup of almonds or pecans can lower a diabetic’s blood sugar level.

Disclaimer: The above are suggestions only and are temporary measures for lowering your glucose level and should not be used as a replacement for doctor-prescribed treatment. It might not work for some individuals. Your blood sugar can be keep at ab acceptable level by taking prescribed medication, regular exercise, plenty of water and a healthy diet monitored by your doctor or diabetic counselor.

Hyperglycemia is a common complication of diabetes, but through medication, exercise, and careful meal planning, you can keep your blood glucose level from going too high—and that can help you in the long-run.

Keeping your blood glucose levels in the recommended ranges throughout the day will help you avoid long-term complications of diabetes, such as:

  • Eye damage
  • Heart attack—or other cardiovascular complications
  • Kidney damage
  • Nerve damage
  • Stroke
  • Problems with healing wounds

By maintaining your blood glucose levels—and avoiding hyperglycemia—you can reduce your risk of all these complications.


How to tell if they are high or low:

“warm and dry sugar high, cold and clammy give them candy”


Signs/Symptoms of Hypoglycemia and Hyperglycemia


The effects of hyperglycemia on the immune system




A lecture on hyperglycemia and its two main complications DKA and HHS


Image credit: Flickr.com



In Category: DIABETES

Marcos Taquechel

Marcos is an RN. Thanks for stopping by and reading my posts. I hope you are able to get something useful out of this blog. Take good care of yourself and don't worry about anything until you have something to worry about.

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