Hyperglycaemia: The Life-Threatening Symptoms to Know

Hyperglycaemia, a medical condition characterised by elevated blood sugar levels, is a widespread issue affecting millions of individuals across the globe. Understanding the signs and symptoms of hyperglycaemia is crucial, as this condition can lead to serious health complications if left untreated. In this guide, we will look into the various aspects of hyperglycaemia, including common symptoms, causes, complications, and the importance of early detection.

What Is Hyperglycaemia?

Hyperglycaemia, often referred to as high blood sugar, occurs when the level of glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream exceeds the normal range (1). This elevation in blood sugar levels can be attributed to several factors:

What causes Hyperglycaemia?

There are multiple causes of hyperglycaemia, but some of the most commonly seen causes include (2):

Diabetes: The primary cause of hyperglycaemia is diabetes, a chronic metabolic disorder that disrupts the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar effectively. People with diabetes may experience hyperglycaemic episodes due to insufficient insulin production or resistance to insulin.

Stress: Physical or emotional stress can trigger a surge in blood sugar levels as the body responds to stress hormones. This reaction can lead to temporary hyperglycaemia.

Medications: Some medications, including corticosteroids and certain antipsychotics, can induce hyperglycaemia as a side effect. It is essential to monitor blood sugar levels while taking these medications.

Other Medical Conditions: Certain medical conditions can indirectly lead to hyperglycaemia. These include Cushing’s syndrome ,Hyperthyroidism and Pancreatic Disorders

Recognising Hyperglycaemia Signs and Symptoms

Common Symptoms:

Hyperglycaemia can manifest through a range of symptoms, which may vary in intensity and duration. Common hyperglycaemia signs and symptoms include (1):

  • Excessive Thirst (Polydipsia): If you find yourself constantly thirsty and consuming more fluids than usual, it could be indicative of hyperglycaemia.
  • Frequent Urination (Polyuria): An increased need to urinate, especially during the night, is a common symptom, as high blood sugar levels prompt the kidneys to remove excess glucose through urine.
  • Fatigue: Feeling unusually tired or fatigued is another prevalent indicator of hyperglycaemia, as cells may not be receiving adequate glucose for energy.
  • Blurred Vision: Elevated blood sugar levels can affect the shape of the lens in the eye, leading to temporary blurred vision. This symptom typically resolves once blood sugar is stabilised.
  • Slow Healing: Wounds, cuts, or sores may take longer to heal in individuals with uncontrolled hyperglycaemia. This is due to impaired blood circulation and compromised immune function.

More Severe Symptoms:

In some instances, hyperglycaemia can progress to more severe symptoms, warranting immediate medical attention. These include:

  • Ketones in Urine: The presence of ketones in your urine can indicate that your body is not receiving adequate insulin. Ketones are acidic byproducts of fat metabolism and can be harmful if not addressed promptly (2).
  • Shortness of Breath: Severe hyperglycaemia can lead to a condition known as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). DKA can cause rapid, deep breathing, known as Kussmaul breathing, and shortness of breath (3).
  • Confusion: DKA can also affect mental clarity, leading to confusion, difficulty concentrating, and even unconsciousness in severe cases (1).

The Importance of Early Detection

Early detection of hyperglycaemia is paramount in preventing potentially life-threatening complications. Prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar can damage organs, blood vessels, and nerves, leading to serious health issues such as (1):

  • Cardiovascular Problems: Hyperglycaemia is a significant risk factor for heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes.
  • Kidney Disease: Uncontrolled blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys, potentially leading to kidney failure.
  • Vision Impairment: Conditions like diabetic retinopathy, characterised by damage to the blood vessels in the retina, can result in vision loss.
  • Neuropathy: Nerve damage due to hyperglycaemia can lead to symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and pain in the extremities.

If you or someone you know experiences any of the symptoms mentioned above, especially the severe symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. Prompt treatment can help stabilise blood sugar levels, reverse ketoacidosis, and prevent further complications.

How to Treat Hyperglycaemia?

Treating hyperglycaemia primarily involves managing and lowering elevated blood sugar levels. The approach to treatment may vary depending on the underlying cause, but here are some general strategies for addressing hyperglycaemia (1):

  • Insulin or Medication: For individuals with diabetes, adjusting insulin dosages or taking prescribed diabetes medications as directed by a healthcare provider is often necessary to bring blood sugar levels back to a normal range. It’s crucial to follow the prescribed treatment plan diligently.
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Lifestyle changes play a vital role in managing hyperglycaemia. This includes adopting a balanced diet rich in fibre, whole grains, lean proteins, and vegetables. Monitoring carbohydrate intake and portion control can help regulate blood sugar levels. Regular physical activity also aids in insulin sensitivity and glucose utilisation, so incorporating exercise into your daily routine is essential.
  • Hydration: Staying well-hydrated is important, as dehydration can exacerbate hyperglycaemia. Drink plenty of water throughout the day, and avoid sugary beverages that can cause blood sugar spikes.
  • Regular Blood Sugar Monitoring: Monitoring blood sugar levels at home allows you to track your progress and make necessary adjustments to your treatment plan. Keep a log of your readings and share them with your doctor or endocrinologist during follow-up appointments.
  • Ketone Monitoring: Individuals with diabetes should also monitor ketone levels, especially when experiencing symptoms of hyperglycaemia. Elevated ketone levels may indicate a need for urgent medical intervention.
  • Medical Assistance: In severe cases of hyperglycaemia or diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA), hospitalisation may be required. In a clinical setting, healthcare professionals can provide intravenous fluids, insulin therapy, and close monitoring to stabilise blood sugar and reverse DKA.


In conclusion, hyperglycaemia is a condition that demands attention and understanding. Recognising the signs and symptoms is the first step toward effective management. Early detection and proper control of blood sugar levels are essential for preventing complications and maintaining optimal health. If you suspect hyperglycaemia, consult a healthcare professional for guidance and support.

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