What is hyperglycemia?
Hyperglycemia is a blood glucose (sugar) level that is higher than normal. Hyperglycemia can be short-term, or it can become a long-term condition that leads to diabetes.
What increases my risk for hyperglycemia?
- Medical problems, such as a stroke or heart attack, or pancreatitis (inflammation of your pancreas)
- Trauma, such as a burn or injury
- Infections, such as pneumonia or a urinary tract infection
- Medicines, such as steroids and diuretics, or illegal drugs, such as cocaine and ecstasy
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or a history of gestational diabetes
- Family history of diabetes
- Obesity or a sedentary lifestyle
What are the signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia?
- More thirst than usual
- Frequent urination
- Weight loss without trying
- Blurred vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
How is hyperglycemia diagnosed?
- A random blood glucose test may be done at any time of day to test the amount of sugar in your blood.
- A fasting plasma glucose tests the amount of sugar in your blood after you have fasted for 8 hours.
- An oral glucose tolerance test checks how much your blood sugar level increases over a few hours. After you have fasted for 8 hours, you are given a glucose drink. Your blood sugar level is checked after 1 hour and again 2 hours after you drink the glucose. Caregivers look at how much your blood sugar level increases from the first check.
- An A1c test shows the average amount of sugar in your blood over the past 2 to 3 months.
How is hyperglycemia treated?
Treatment depends on your blood sugar level. You may need any of the following:
- Hypoglycemic medicine helps to decrease the amount of sugar in your blood. This medicine helps your body move the sugar to your cells, where it is needed for energy. Your caregiver will tell you how often to take this medicine and how long to take it.
- Insulin helps to decrease the amount of sugar in your blood. You may need 1 or more shots of insulin each day. You or a family member will be taught how to give the insulin shots. Your caregiver will tell you how often you need to inject insulin each day. He will also tell you how long you will need to take it.
What are the risks of hyperglycemia?
- Treatment may cause your blood sugar level to become too low. The levels of your electrolytes (minerals) may become too high or too low. For example, your potassium level may decrease.
- Without treatment, high blood sugar levels can lead to severe dehydration. If you have surgery, you may develop an infection in your surgery wound, or it may not heal well. You may get a blood clot in your leg or arm. The clot may travel to your heart or brain and cause life-threatening problems, such as a heart attack or stroke. Hyperglycemia may cause pancreatitis. Hyperglycemia can also lead to diabetes. Hyperglycemia can damage your nerves, veins, arteries, and organs over time. Damage to arteries may increase your risk for a heart attack or stroke.
How can I manage my hyperglycemia?
Ask your caregiver about these and other ways to help lower your blood sugar level or keep it steady:
- Exercise regularly. This can help to lower your blood sugar levels. It can also improve your heart health and help you stay at a healthy weight. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise 5 days each week. Ask your caregiver about the best exercise plan for you.
- Lose weight if you are overweight. Even a small loss of 5% to 10% of your body weight can help to decrease your blood sugar levels. Weight loss can also improve your heart health.
- Eat healthy foods. Include foods that are high in fiber, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans. Also include foods that are low in fat, such as low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, and cheese), fish, and lean meat. Limit foods that are high in calories and sugar, such as sweet desserts, potato chips, and candy. Limit foods that are high in sodium, such as table salt and salty foods. Your caregiver may suggest that you limit carbohydrates to lower your blood sugar levels.
- Do not smoke. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Smoking can worsen the problems that can occur with hyperglycemia. Ask your caregiver for information if you need help quitting.
- Limit alcohol. Women should limit alcohol to 1 drink a day. Men should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.
Do I need to check my blood sugar level?
You may need to check your blood sugar level with a blood glucose meter. If you take insulin, you may need to check your blood sugar level at least 3 times each day. Ask your caregiver when and how often to check during the day. Ask what your blood sugar levels should be before and after you eat. You may need to check for ketones in your urine if your blood sugar level is high. Write down your results and show them to your caregiver.
When should I contact my caregiver?
Contact your caregiver if:
- You have a fever.
- Your blood sugar levels continue to be higher than you were told they should be.
- You continue to urinate more often than usual.
- You continue to be more thirsty than usual.
- You continue to have nausea and vomiting.
- You have a wound that has signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, and pus.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
When should I seek immediate care?
Seek care immediately or call 911 if:
- Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may look swollen and red.
- You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
- You cough up blood.
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.