Top 7 Symptoms of High Blood Sugar - Health Education - DesiMD Healthcare - India

Top 7 Symptoms of High Blood Sugar

Authored by DesiMD Doctor on 16 Apr 2016 - 11:45


High blood sugar or high blood glucose also called as ‘Hyperglycemia’ by medical professionals is the hallmark of diabetes and happens when your body can no longer make enough insulin or can’t use insulin properly. Diabetics can get hyperglycemia from not eating the correct foods or not taking medicines correctly.

Severe illness and hormone imbalances are other problems that can raise blood sugar. Hyperglycemia, if left untreated can result in serious health disorders. Excess sugar in the bloodstream for prolonged time can harm the blood vessels that supply blood to essential organs. It can also cause other types of damage to body tissues, which can increase the risk of kidney disease, heart disease and stroke also nerve and vision problems in people with diabetes.

Hyperglycemia is defined by certain high levels of blood glucose:

  • Fasting levels higher than 7.0mmol/L (126mg/dl)
  • Two-hour postprandial (after a meal) levels higher than 11.0mmol/L (200mg/dl).

Causes of High blood sugar: ADA (American Diabetes Association) describes a number of things that can cause hyperglycemia:

  • If you have type 1 diabetes and may not have given yourself enough insulin.
  • If you are suffering from type 2diabetes and your body may have enough insulin, but it is not as efficacious as it should be.
  • If you consumed more than planned or exercised less than planned.
  • If you may have experienced the dawn phenomenon (a surge of hormones that the body produces daily around 4:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m.)
  • Stress from an illness like a cold or flu or other family and personal stress.

Symptoms of high blood sugar: Dr Arthur Fournier, from University of Miami School of medicine, indicates three most common symptoms of high blood sugar- polyuria, polydipsia, and polyphagia. In English, it means excessive urination (especially at night), excessive thirst, and excessive hunger. Any health care provider who hears this trio of complaints will reach for a blood glucose meter.

  • Excessive urination: Polyuria is defined as urinating more than three liters each day as compared to the normal daily urine output. It is a condition where the body passes abnormally large amount of urine each time you urinate. It is one of the main symptoms of diabetes- both type 1 as well as type 2. When the blood glucose is high in diabetic people, not all glucose can be reabsorbed and some of this excess glucose from the blood ends up in the urine where it draws more water, ultimately resulting in large volumes of water.
  • Excessive thirst: Polydipsia is the term given to excessive thirst and is one of the initial symptoms of high blood sugar. It is a response to the dehydrating effects of polyuria. Osmoreceptors, specialized cells in the hypothalamus that detect the level of plasma osmolality – the level of dehydration of the blood, creates the urge to drink fluids when a person is dehydrated. Before diabetes is diagnosed, people experiencing high blood sugar misinterpret the relationship between excessive urination and excessive thirst. 

    Diabetics assume that excessive urination is caused by the excessive thirst and not the other way around. Many people complicate matters by reaching for a soft drink or soda when they are extreme thirsty. Soda and soft drinks contain lots of sugar that raises the blood glucose level even higher and makes the polyuria worse.

  • Excessive hunger: Polyphagia is described when you develop excess hunger pangs and starve to death. If the general body cells cannot take up glucose for metabolism, you develop excessive hunger pans. It is not actually caused much by a high blood glucose level as by a low insulin level, which can be either a direct shortage of insulin as in type 1 diabetes, or it can be a relative shortage of insulin, as in type 2diabetes. 

    In either case, the amount of insulin in the blood is not adequate enough to move glucose molecules from the bloodstream into the cells, where they can be used as fuel for cellular processes. If cells are unable to gain access to glucose, they send out hunger signals through a variety of signaling hormones like ghrelin, PYY 3-36, leptin and orexin, all of them signal the brain’s hypothalamus to trigger the sensation of hunger.

  • Weight loss: ADA (American Diabetes Association) indicates weight loss as another symptom for high blood sugar. Although you may eat like crazy when your blood glucose is chronically high, you will still shed some weight. The reason behind is that the loss of fluids from excessive urination leads to a low level of body fluids, which accounts for very quick weight loss with onset of diabetes.

    Secondly, if insulin levels are too low for glucose metabolism, your body will swap to burning fat to maintain cellular metabolism, leading to weight loss. Lastly, the excess amount of urine that is generated by high blood glucose is full of calories. Hence when there are high levels of glucose in your urine, the body excretes excess calories to balance the excess glucose in your body.

  • Blurred vision:  Blurry vision is a response from acute high blood glucose due to dehydrating effect of excessive urination. Chronic high blood glucose can lead to retinopathy (a disease of the retina that can result in loss of vision).  A recent study showed that 35 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes already had some degree of retinopathy and that’s because people with Type 2 diabetes have high blood glucose levels for a prolonged time before their diabetes is diagnosed. This is why ADA (American Diabetes Association) suggests that people with Type 2 diabetes have a dilated and comprehensive eye exam soon after diagnosis.
  • Infections: Even though yeast infections and UTIs (Urinary tract infections) can exist in both men and women, they are much more common among women, especially diabetic women who are 2-3 times more likely to have bacteria in their urine. Chronic yeast infections boom in warm, moist places and are common in women with chronically high blood glucose because more glucose gives yeast more opportunities. On the other hand, UTIs can lead to a number of complications including damage to a nerve tissue or neuropathy.
  • Slow healing of cuts and wounds:  Neutrophils, the most common type of leukocyte in the immune system’s arsenal are especially dangerous, as high levels of glucose slows down the healing of cuts and wounds. The slow healing of wounds sets the stage for some of the alarming diabetes complications. Minor wounds can advance to cellulitis, which then leads to tissue necrosis, or tissue death.

If Hyperglycemia is left untreated, a condition called ketoacidosis (diabetic coma) could occur. Hence it is essential to treat as soon as you detect it. Ketoacidosis develops when your body doesn't have enough insulin and without insulin, your body can't use glucose for fuel. Hence your body breaks down fats for creating energy and when your body breaks down fats, waste products called ketones are produced.

Your body cannot bear large amounts of ketones and therefore will try to relieve itself by throwing it out through urination. Since the body cannot release all the ketones, they build up in your blood, ultimately leading to ketoacidosis, which is life-threatening and needs proximate treatment. Breathing problems, nausea, dry mouth and vomiting are all symptoms associated with ketoacidosis.



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