High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) primarily affects people with diabetes, but a few non-diabetics can also have episodes of elevated blood sugars. The unstable blood sugar may be due to an inactive job or lifestyle, stress, eating disorders, and other events and conditions. The rise in blood sugar is temporary and will normalize when the lifestyle or medical reasons for hyperglycemia are resolved. With diabetes, hyperglycemia is a serious problem, the root of complications and eventually death. There is insufficient insulin to handle the high blood sugar.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Frequency of urination, getting up at night to urinate, unquenchable thirst and dry mouth are early symptoms of hyperglycemia. Fatigue and drowsiness are common with the condition. There may be weight loss, despite a big appetite and increased food intake. Wounds heal slowly, vision may be blurry and skin dry and itchy. More advanced symptoms, with a higher blood sugar or long-term elevations of blood sugar are increasing confusion and drowsiness, rapid, shallow breathing, dizziness on standing, and abdominal pain occur. The symptoms may progress to unconsciousness and coma.

Long-term consequences of hyperglycemia can be catastrophic, even deadly. Cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease, damage to kidneys and nerves, as well as effects leading to blindness may occur. Osteoporosis, skin problems, such as infection and poor wound healing, and dental infections are long-term consequences.

Diagnosis is made based on history and symptoms. In a known diabetic, hyperglycemia is the first thing to consider in someone with the symptoms of high blood sugar. In addition, the diabetic’s breath may have a sweet, fruity odor. In a non-diabetic, these symptoms may not trigger thoughts of hyperglycemia until they are advanced. Anyone with increasing confusion and changes in level of consciousness should have an immediate blood sugar test. Lengthier, timed blood sugar tests with specific glucose (sugar) intake, and a glycosalated hemoglobin blood test are also used for diagnosis. Continue reading for Causes, Prevention, and Treatment Information . . .

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