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Hyperglycemia is the technical term for high blood glucose (blood sugar). High blood sugar happens when the body has too little insulin (a hormone released by pancreas) or when the body can’t use insulin properly.

Technically speaking, Hyperglycemia is characterized by fasting (overnight fast) and 2-hour postprandial (done after a meal) blood glucose levels of more than 125 mg/dl and 180 mg/dl, respectively. A patient with a fasting glucose level of 100 – 125 mg/dl is considered pre-diabetic ( in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not as high as they would be in diabetes, are at risk of developing diabetes.); whereas, a patient with a fasting glucose level of more than 125 mg/dl is considered diabetic.

What happens when blood is hyperglycemic? 

If your blood is high in sugar it can become thick and sticky, like other liquids that are high in sugar (syrup or honey), which move slowly through your body.

As already known, blood is the wonder liquid of our body responsible for providing all vital components to tissues and removing waste products from the same, which we cannot afford to keep for a long time.

This can eventually cause long-term complications, like damage to eyes, kidneys, or nerves, if not treated.

What if blood glucose levels are dangerously high?

Having too much sugar in the blood for long periods of time can cause serious health problems if it’s not treated. Severely elevated glucose levels can result in a medical emergency like diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).


DKA happens when your blood sugar is very high and acidic substances called ketones build up to dangerous levels in your body. Ketoacidosis develops when your body doesn’t have enough insulin. Without insulin, the body can’t use glucose for fuel, so the body breaks down fats to use for energy which actually break down to ketones.

Our body cannot tolerate large amounts of ketones and will try to get rid of them through urine.
Unfortunately, the body cannot release all the ketones and they build up in your blood, which can lead to ketoacidosis. Ketoacidosis is life-threatening and needs immediate treatment.

Symptoms include:

  1. Shortness of breath
  2. Breath that smells fruity
  3. Nausea and vomiting
  4. Very dry mouth
  5. Ketoacidosis shouldn’t be confused with ketosis, which is harmless.

Also, hyperglycemia can:

  1. Damage the vessels that supply blood to vital organs,
  2. Increase the risk of heart disease and stroke,
  3. Kidney disease,
  4. Vision problems, and
  5. Nerve problems.

 What causes hyperglycemia?

1. Type 1 Diabetes:

There’s a very good reason that glucose levels climb high in Type 1 diabetes, and that’s the lack of insulin. When the pancreas shuts down insulin production, blood glucose levels start to climb.

2. Type 2 Diabetes:

Glucose levels spike up in Type 2 diabetes, and that’s because of reduced sensitivity of insulin. When this happens, blood glucose levels start to climb.

3.  Dawn phenomenon:

The dawn phenomenon, also called the dawn effect or liver dump, is the term used to describe an abnormal early-morning increase in blood sugar (glucose) — usually between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. — in people with diabetes. The dawn phenomenon occurs when the body produces hormones that result in raised blood sugars in the morning. It is thought that the body releases hormones that either impairs the action of insulin or cause the liver to release extra sugar into the blood.


The response to stress is characterized by excessive gluconeogenesis (production of glucose from fats and proteins), glycogenolysis (production of glucose from glycogen), and insulin resistance. Stress hyperglycemia, however, appears to be caused predominantly by the increased hepatic (by liver) output of glucose rather than impaired tissue glucose extraction.

5. Illness or Post-surgical stress:

Illness or stress can trigger hyperglycemia because hormones produced to combat illness or stress can also cause your blood sugar to rise. Even people who don’t have diabetes may develop hyperglycemia during severe illness, considered as a physiological response to inflammation.

6. Eating more than planned:

The foods that generate the biggest spike in your blood sugar are those that are high in processed carbohydrates. If you’re watching your carbohydrate intake, you don’t have to avoid these foods. Instead, you’ll need to be careful about portion size and substitute with whole grains when possible. The more food you eat, the greater the amount of sugar you’ll absorb. Eating mixed meals is helpful. Protein, fat, and fiber help slow down the digestion of carbohydrates. This will help reduce spikes in blood sugar after meals.

7. Exercising less than planned:

When you do moderate exercise, like walking, that makes your heart beat a little faster and breathe a little harder; your muscles use more glucose, the sugar in your bloodstream. Over time, this can lower your blood sugar levels. It also makes the insulin in your body work better.


What helps you keep hyperglycemia in check?

  1. First, drink plenty of water or sugar-free fluid to help “flush” the sugar from your bloodstream.
  2. Think about why your blood sugar is high.
  3. The best way to prevent hyperglycemia-related complications is to monitor blood glucose levels daily using a glucose meter.
  4. For diabetic patients, it is vital to properly consume the prescribed medicines (insulin shots or glucose-controlling medicines) and follow the diet plan.
  5. Diabetic patients should also follow a strict physical activity regimen. However, if ketones are present in the blood or urine, exercise is not recommended as it can further increase the ketone level.

Ask your doctor, nurse, or dietitian:

  1. What is the target range for my blood sugar readings?
  2. What should I do when my blood sugar readings are too high?
  3. When should I call you about high blood sugar levels?
  4. Can you help me to make a sick day plan?


M. Sc. Gold Medalist

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