Hyperglycemia during critical illness

Hyperglycemia During Critical Illness

Hyperglycemia is a common complication in critically ill patients, occurring in approximately 40-80% of such cases. There are several risk factors for the development of this condition, including diabetes, certain medications, dietary factors, and endocrine disorders. Hyperglycemia during critical illness can lead to an increased risk of morbidity and mortality, and can adversely affect the outcome of care. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia so that appropriate interventions can be implemented to reduce its effects.

What Causes Hyperglycemia During Critical Illness?

Several metabolic and hormonal changes occur during critical illness, which can lead to hyperglycemia. These include:

  • Release of stress hormones such as catecholamines, corticosteroids, and growth hormone, which cause an increase in insulin resistance and a decrease in the effectiveness of insulin.
  • Reabsorption of glucose from the kidneys, leading to an increase in the concentration of blood glucose.
  • Increased glucose production by the liver due to stimulation by the aforementioned hormones.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Hyperglycemia During Critical Illness?

  • Weight gain
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Headaches
  • Anxiety

How Is Hyperglycemia Treated During Critical Illness?

Treatment of hyperglycemia during critical illness typically involves adjustment of medications and/or insulin therapy. Other interventions may include the following:

  • Intravenous fluids to improve hydration status and prevent dehydration.
  • Nutritional counseling to ensure an appropriate balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
  • Regular monitoring of blood glucose levels to ensure target goals are being met.
  • Assessment of the root cause of hyperglycemia and implementation of targeted interventions to address them.


Hyperglycemia is a common complication in critically ill patients, but can be managed if recognized and addressed promptly. An understanding of the causes, signs and symptoms, and treatment options can help ensure successful outcomes. With appropriate interventions, hyperglycemia during critical illness can often be effectively managed.