HYPERGLYCAEMIA (high blood glucose levels)
High blood glucose levels greater than 15 mmol/L and not settling.
People with diabetes may have high blood glucose levels from time to time. Some people may choose to live with them for long periods of time. This may be because they do not feel they have the skills to get their blood glucose levels down, they lack energy (due to the high levels), they may have no symptoms, they have high demands on them from other aspects of their lives.
High blood glucose levels happen for a range of reasons and can be the result of interplay between a variety of factors.
It is tempting to think that blood glucose levels are a direct and simple equation between the food people eat and the insulin or blood glucose lowering medication they take. However as we have already seen – things are not that simple!!
Long-term hyperglycaemia is a major cause of complications with diabetes.
CAUSES OF HYPERGLYCAEMIA
Illness, infection, stress, surgery or injury
When the body is under physical or psychological stress it releases a range of hormones that are often called ‘stress hormones’. These hormones increase insulin resistance. Because of this, the presence of these hormones will usually cause blood glucose levels to rise.
Causes hyperglycaemia can include –
- Excess food or the wrong sort of food
- Increased body weight
- Decreased activity level
- Some medications, your healthcare professional will advise you on these. If you are on blood glucose lowering medications these may need to be increased (or sometimes changed e.g. insulin added). If you are not on blood glucose lowering medications they may need to be started
- Not taking blood glucose lowering medications when they have been prescribed
- Infection, injury or level of stress (which will also need to be managed/treated)
- If you are experiencing sleep loss, especially with Obstructive Sleep Apnoea, this can cause stress hormones to rise and raise blood glucose levels.
Check Your Fluids
Symptoms of hyperglycaemia (High blood glucose)
- Excessive thirst, frequent thirst
- Excessive and frequent urination
- Very hungry, hungry often
- Blurred vision
- Weight loss
- Wounds and cuts heal poorly
- Dry mouth
- Cardiac arrhythmia (Irregular heart beat)
- Deep and rapid breathing (hyperventilation)
- Impotence (erectile dysfunction)
- Itchy and/or dry skin
- High levels of glucose in the urine (ketoacidosis)
Ketoacidosis (key-toe-ass-i-DOE-sis) diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA will usually only happen in type 1 diabetes but severe dehydration can occur in type2 diabetes with similar consequences.
This happens because there's not enough insulin to allow glucose to enter the cells where it can be used as energy. The body begins to use stores of fat as an alternative source of energy, and this in turn produces an acidic by-product known as ketones.
High levels of ketones are very harmful and the body will immediately try to get rid of them by excreting them in urine, but without adequate insulin they will not be cleared properly from the body. When the blood glucose levels are high, people often become increasingly thirsty as the body tries to flush out the glucose in the urine. If the level of ketones in the body continues to rise, ketoacidosis develops. Their harmful effect becomes more apparent, and nausea or vomiting may start. In addition, the skin may become dry, eyesight blurred and breathing may become deep and rapid.
Keoacidosis is identified with a urine or blood test.
Symptoms of ketoacidosis -
- Breath smells fruity
- Nausea and sometimes vomiting
- Mouth is extremely dry
- Short of breath
- Blurry vision
If you have these symptoms contact your healthcare provider for help and advice.
If you have high levels of ketones and/or you are vomiting then you will need emergency services.
Ask your doctor for the best way to lower blood glucose levels.
Good diabetes management helps reduce the incidence of hyperglycemias. Learn to detect hyperglycemias quickly so that you can treat it early on.
Exercising can help lower blood glucose levels.
Reducing food intake will also help lower blood glucose. It is important that you stick to your meal plan, which should be worked out with a dietitian or health care professional.
If none of the measures mentioned above manages to lower your blood glucose it is possible that medication may have to be reviewed. Your insulin and medication doses or time of taking them may need to be altered.