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What is hyperglycemia?

Hyperglycemia, also known as high blood sugar, is the presence of excess glucose in the blood.

A blood glucose level of above 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) when you haven’t eaten for 8 hours is considered hyperglycemic. A level above 180 mg/dL within an hour or two of a meal is hyperglycemic. However, the symptoms of hyperglycemia – frequent urination, increased thirst, blurred vision, fatigue – don’t typically manifest until levels are significantly elevated between 180 to 200 (mg/dL). Severe hyperglycemia can lead to complications including ketoacidosis, a build-up of waste products that can lead to a diabetic coma.

Several factors can contribute to hyperglycemia in diabetics:

  • Undercounting carbs at mealtime
  • Not exercising
  • Emotional or physical stress
  • Illnesses
  • Medications, other than those used to treat diabetes
  • Skipping or not taking glucose-lowering prescriptions

Over long periods of time, chronic hyperglycemia can lead to complications, including nerve, blood vessel or organ damage.

Exercise and drinking water to flush out excess glucose after meals can help lower a blood sugar spike. Insulin injections will also treat hyperglycemia. However, the best way to manage hyperglycemia is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Methods include regularly monitoring blood glucose levels and using a combination of medicine (typically insulin injections), exercise and careful meal planning.

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