Reviewed by Michael Fuller, MD
Hyperglycemia is the presence of very high amounts of glucose in the blood stream. It is the cause of a number of potentially deadly complications of diabetes, and should be treated promptly if it develops.
When insulin is in short supply in the body, glucose – the simple sugar responsible for fueling cellular activity – cannot be absorbed by cells, and instead remains in the blood stream. This state is called hyperglycemia.
Signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia may include: Frequent, pronounced hunger
Frequent, excessive thirst
Frequent and/or excessive urination
Poor healing (of cuts, scrapes, etc.)
Dry mouth, dry or itchy skin
Erectile dysfunction in men
Recurrent infections such as vaginal yeast infections, jock itch, or external ear infections
Diabetes treatment plans are designed to prevent hyperglycemia. But even so, hyperglycemia may still occur in some situations. The most common causes are:
Eating too much, or varying meal sizes
Less exercise than planned on
A cold, an infection or the flu
Emotional stress, such as family conflict or workplace challenges
Forgetting to take medication
Problems with insulin, such as too low a dose of insulin or using a bottle of insulin that has expired
When hyperglycemia is left untreated, ketoacidosis and diabetic coma – two life-threatening complications of diabetes – may occur, but with prompt treatment, hyperglycemia can be resolved before it becomes dangerous.