Hyperglycemia: What You Need to Know

Hyperglycemia is a health condition in which blood glucose levels become too high. It most often occurs as a complication of diabetes, but it can happen in people who don't have diabetes. The best way to prevent hyperglycemia is to manage your diabetes if you have it, or to prevent developing diabetes if you don’t.

Symptoms of Hyperglycemia

Symptoms of hyperglycemia can include:

  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Feeling very fatigued
  • Wounds and infections that heal slowly
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

If these symptoms are not treated, it can lead to a life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis or hyperosmolar coma.

Causes of Hyperglycemia

Hyperglycemia is most often caused by a lack of insulin, or by the body's inability to use insulin, which is seen in type 1 and type 2 diabetes. It can also be caused by certain medications, stress, infection, or illness.

Risk Factors

Risk factors for developing hyperglycemia can include:

  • Being over the age of 45
  • Having a family history of diabetes
  • Being overweight or having obesity
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Having prediabetes
  • Having certain genetic syndromes, such as Down syndrome or Turner syndrome

Treatment of Hyperglycemia

The goal of treating hyperglycemia is to lower your blood glucose levels to normal, and to keep them in a healthy range. Treatment options will depend on the underlying cause.

For people with diabetes, treatment will usually include making changes to your diet and exercise regimen, and taking medications as needed. Improving your overall health is key to managing your diabetes.

If you don’t have diabetes, treatment will focus on addressing the underlying cause of your hyperglycemia. Your doctor may suggest lifestyle modifications and medications to help keep your blood glucose levels in a healthy range.

Prevention of Hyperglycemia

The most important way to prevent hyperglycemia is to keep your blood glucose levels within a healthy range. For people with diabetes, this means following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, managing stress, and taking medications as prescribed.

If you don’t have diabetes, taking steps to prevent it can also help you prevent hyperglycemia. Maintaining a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet, getting regular physical activity, and not smoking are important in reducing your risk.