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Hyperglycemia - High Blood Glucose

The technical term for high blood glucose is Hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia occurs when the body does not have enough insulin, the body cannot use the insulin properly, you have eaten more than planned, you have eaten too many sweets, you have exercised less than planned, you are ill, or there are high levels of stress. Anyone who has diabetes will have hyperglycemia from time to time. It is a serious problem and will need to be dealt with quickly, but there is no reason to be frantic. Usually an injection of fast acting insulin will bring the blood sugar levels into the normal range within one to two hours. Unless high blood sugar is not treated, the symptoms will go away without any serious side effects. The problem with hyperglycemia is that it causes problems in the long term. Many of the complications of diabetes are caused by repeated episodes of hyperglycemia.

The Symptoms of Hyperglycemia

Of course high blood sugar and high levels of sugar in the urine indicate hyperglycemia, But these conditions can only be seen with a blood or urine test. The physical indications are frequent urination, "dry mouth", and tiredness. If not treated, the symptoms will increase and the effects might be: dry, itchy skin, increased appetite, poor healing of wounds, flu-like achiness, headaches, and blurred vision.

One or more of these signs may warn you that you have high blood sugar. Warning signs can often be very subtle or you might think they are caused by other conditions. If you have warning signs of high blood sugar, even very subtle ones, do not ignore them.

Testing your blood and then treating high blood sugar early will help you avoid the other symptoms of hyperglycemia.

It's important to treat hyperglycemia as soon as you detect it. If you fail to treat hyperglycemia, a condition called Ketoacidosis (diabetic coma) could occur. Ketoacidosis develops when your body does not have enough insulin. Without insulin, your body can't use glucose for fuel. So, your body breaks down fats to use for energy. When your body breaks down fats, waste products called ketones are produced. Your body cannot tolerate large amounts of ketones and will try to get rid of them through the urine. Unfortunately, the body cannot release all the ketones and they build up in your blood. This can lead to ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is life-threatening and needs immediate treatment. Symptoms include: shortness of breath, breath that smells fruity, nausea and vomiting, and a very dry mouth. Talk to your doctor about how to handle this condition.

You Can Prevent High Blood Sugar by:

  • Taking your diabetes medication as instructed
  • Carefully following your meal plan
  • Following your exercise plan
  • Decreasing the stress in your life
  • Taking care of illness or infection quickly

Hypoglycemia - Low Blood Glucose

As you might imagine, Hypoglycemia is the opposite of hyperglycemia. With hypoglycemia, the blood glucose falls below the normal range. In technical terms, hypoglycemia starts when blood glucose levels fall below 80. This condition is often referred to as an Insulin Reaction. An Insulin reaction is a much more serious condition than hyperglycemia, and always needs an immediate response.

The brain uses 25% of the glucose in the blood stream. When blood glucose levels fall, the brain functions diminish and you lose cognitive abilities. The lower the level falls, the more drunk-like your behaviour becomes. Unless those around you are aware of insulin reaction symptoms, they will not take your needs seriously. Also, the lower your blood sugar falls, the less cognitive ability you will have and that will make it harder to take care of yourself. In extreme cases, you could pass out. For that reason, you should always wear diabetes identification.

What Causes Hypoglycemia

The most common cause of hypoglycemia is not following your meal plan. It is easy to get very busy and let a meal time pass by. The amount of food is also important. There should be an attempt to eat the same amount of food at the same time every day. Too much exercise can also cause low blood sugar. It is a good idea to eat a small amount of carbohydrate before and after exercise. It is a good idea to keep a source of sugar close while you exercise. Another cause could be taking too much insulin, or taking it at the wrong time. This should not be much of a problem because you should take the same amount of insulin at the same time everyday. Alcohol and other drugs have strong and unpredictable effects on insulin up take. Alcohol lowers blood glucose in small amounts, but in larger amounts it can cause the blood sugar to skyrocket. Stress makes insulin uptake unpredictable as well. Stress can cause one's blood sugar to either rise or fall.

What are Insulin Reaction Symptoms?

  • sweatiness
  • shakiness
  • irritability
  • old, clammy skin
  • nervousness
  • weakness
  • rapid heart beat
    • nausea
    • blurred vision
    • numb lips and tongue
    • passing out - fainting
    • confusion
    • personality change

    Hypoglycemia Can be Broken Down into Three Categories

    Mild Hypoglycemia

    Blood glucose levels of 60 to 80. Mild hypoglycemia is usually only a nuisance. Cognitive deficits usually do not accompany mild reactions, and patients are capable of self treatment. The symptoms of mild hypoglycemia are mostly due to epinephrine release form the adrenal gland (adrenergic symptoms). Frequent mild hypoglycemia can lead to over eating and obesity.

    Mild hypoglycemic reactions usually consist of:

    These mild symptoms usually respond within 10 to 15 minutes after eating a simple carbohydrate

    Moderate Hypoglycemia

    Blood glucose levels of 40 to 60. Moderate hypoglycemia affects the central nervous system. Therefore, some of the symptoms listed below are often referred to as neuroglycopenic:

    Patients with these symptoms may require assistance in treating themselves. Since moderate hypoglycemia produces longer-lasting and somewhat more severe symptoms, patients often need to repeat ingestion of a simple carbohydrate.

    Severe Hypoglycemia

    Characterized by:

    Patients with impaired consciousness or an inability to swallow may aspirate fluid or food into the lungs and should NEVER be given anything by mouth. Call a physician or an ambulance if needed. These patients require either an injection of the hormone glucagon or administration of intravenous glucose (a hospital procedure). Generally, clinical improvement occurs within 10 to 15 minutes after glucagon injections and within 1 to 5 minutes after intravenous glucose.

    For more information call: The American Diabetes Association, 1-800-232-3472

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