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How to manage hyperglycaemia?

Edited: 24.07.2024

Anne-Charlotte Ficheroulle

Pharmacist, Digital Innovation Manager, A4D

1. What is hyperglycaemia?

The blood glucose level is the amount of glucose in the blood. When these levels increase too high, over 14 mmol/L (250 mg/dl), it’s called hyperglycaemia. Very high blood glucose levels can cause serious symptoms that need to be treated right away.

If it’s not treated, hyperglycaemia can become severe and lead to serious complications requiring emergency care, such as a diabetic coma.

Too much glucose in the blood for long periods of time can damage your nerves, blood vessels and vital organs, which can lead to problems like heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, non-healing wound and leg amputation.

Read more.

2. How to recognise hyperglycaemia?

The signs and symptoms of high blood glucose can vary depending on the person.
These are some of the things you feel or get when you have high blood glucose:

  • Thirsty all the time

  • Need to urinate a lot especially night time

  • Blurred vision

  • Very tired all the time

  • Dry mouth

If it’s a serious case of high blood glucose you might also experience:

  • Nausea

  • Stomach pain

  • Abnormal breathing

  • Breath that smells like alcohol

Sometimes hyperglycaemia can get very serious and you can faint or loss of consciousness. If you have any of these signs you should go to the hospital/clinic.

3. What can cause hyperglycaemia?

Managing Type 1 Diabetes is like a three-way balancing act because you have to watch your insulin, the food you eat and the amount of exercise or physical activity you get.
All three need to be balanced. If any one of these is off, blood sugar levels can be too. In general, higher than normal blood glucose levels can be caused by:

  • Not taking your insulin when you’re supposed to or not taking the right amounts

  • The insulin was expired or not stored properly

  • Not following the meal plan (like eating too frequently/snacking)

  • Taken too much carbohydrate foods/sugary drinks

  • Less exercise than usual

  • Having an infection, illness or menstruation

  • Emotion, such as excitement or stress

  • Sometimes temporarily during or just after vigorous exercise (stress effect)

  • Taking other kinds of medicines that affect how your diabetes medicines work

4. Checking for high blood glucose levels.

As part of the diabetes management plan, you’ll need to check your blood glucose levels multiple times a day with the glucometer. This helps you identify when you have high blood glucose levels, which don’t always cause symptoms. Someone who isn’t testing regularly might have blood glucose levels high enough to damage the body without even realising it.

If you find that you are having a lot of high blood sugar levels, your doctor/nurse may suggest changing the insulin doses or meal plan to bring the levels back into a healthy range.

5. How to treat high blood glucose (hyperglycaemia)?

If your blood glucose is over 14 mmol/L (250 mg/dl) you have to take action quickly.
Here are the steps you have to follow:

  • Check your blood glucose level and take a short acting insulin shot

  • Contact your doctor/nurse to ask how much extra insulin you need or if you are not sure what to do

  • Drink lots of water (at least 1 glass of water per hour)

  • Avoid strenous exercise

  • After 2 hours check your blood glucose level

If your blood glucose is still over 14 mmol/L (250 mg/dl), immediately contact your doctor/nurse.
If your blood glucose is over 22 mmol/L (400mg/dl)) you have severe hyperglycaemia. Take short acting insulin immediately (10% of total daily dose). Contact your doctor/hospital immediately.

6. Key Takeaways

Hyperglycaemia, or high blood sugar, is a condition that arises when blood sugar levels in the body are elevated beyond what’s normal. Prolonged hyperglycaemia can cause serious complications that are typically associated with diabetes, and in more serious cases can even lead to life-threatening situations.

For people with Type 1 diabetes, avoiding hyperglycaemia is an integral part of managing their condition. This can be done by keeping an eye on the food that you eat, as well as checking your blood sugar levels regularly to make sure that they are always within the normal range. It’s also important to follow your doctor’s advice since they are the ones who are best able to guide you on how to manage your diabetes.

Take the quiz on hyperglycaemia now!

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