Hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia—things you should know
Some of us may mistake hypoglycemia from hyperglycemia because they sound similar. But we have to take note that both conditions are far distinct from each other and possess different symptoms and health impacts.
What is the difference between hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia?
The only thing to remember in distinguishing these two health concerns is that hyperglycemia is a condition where the blood sugar is abnormally high, whereas hypoglycemia is a condition where the blood sugar level significantly drops.
Both conditions are also related to the abnormal production of insulin by the pancreas. Low or high production of insulin can lead to serious medical conditions if not given immediate medical attention. Abnormal insulin production may also occur to people who don’t have diabetes. Its causes range from medication side effects, inactive lifestyle, and poor eating habits (either eating insufficiently or excessively). It was also found that excess workouts may also trigger abnormal insulin production.
People with either hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia may not know that they have this condition at its onset without using a glucose meter check.
What is Hyperglycemia?
Hyperglycemia is a condition where the blood glucose level is high and caused by low levels of insulin. The known primary complication of hyperglycemia is diabetes. However, high blood sugar doesn’t immediately rule as diabetes because even healthy people may experience fluctuations in blood sugar levels from time to time. (1)
The blood sugar level is measured using a blood glucose meter. Sugar levels in your blood should be within the standards established by the American Diabetes Associations. They also refer to this standard as blood glucose goals. If reading is consistently showing results that are beyond or under your blood glucose goals, then you may have to talk to your doctor for them to give you medical advice on how to manage your condition.
Persistent cases of hyperglycemia may lead to potential health complications ranging from benign to severe conditions. If the condition primarily affects the large blood vessels, then it may lead to an increased risk of the following complications:
- Peripheral vascular disease.
- Cardiovascular disorders such as congestive heart failure or increased risk of a heart attack.
- Cerebrovascular disease or stroke.
If only smaller blood vessels are affected, then it may potentially lead to the following disorders:
- Neuropathy or damaged nerves
- Nephropathy or kidney damage due to infection or disease
- Retinopathy or eye disorder caused by diabetes
Serious cases of high blood sugar may become life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. The potential health concern that may develop due to severe high blood sugar level includes:
- Diabetic ketoacidosis or DKA – this condition is common to people with type-1 diabetes. It develops if the body undergoes dehydration at the same time, insufficient insulin deficiency is occurring. This event is relative to a high blood sugar level induced by the release of ketones.
- Hyperosmolar hyperglycemic nonketotic syndrome or HHNS – it commonly occurs in people with type-2 diabetes. This type of health complication happens if diabetes wasn’t properly managed or immediate medical attention wasn’t provided.
Early signs of high blood sugar levels are easy to detect and may include the following symptoms:
- Frequent feelings of hunger and thirst
- Frequently urinating
- Blurry eyesight
Symptoms of serious cases of hyperglycemia include:
- Shortness of breath.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Abdominal pains.
- Dry mouth.
- Alcoholic or sometimes fruity-smelling breath.
- Soreness and aches in certain areas of the body.
- Loss of appetite
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s advisable to talk to your doctor immediately to prevent aggravating the condition.
What is Hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia is the exact opposite of hyperglycemia. It is a condition where the blood sugar level becomes significantly low, which is about under 70 mg/dL. It becomes a serious medical condition if it goes as low as 54mg/dL.
Blood sugar levels may drop due to the body not receiving sufficient nutrients to help the body work properly. Other causes may also include excessive physical workout and alcohol consumption without eating first. Overdosage of insulin medication is another culprit to the lowered blood sugar levels.
Detecting whether you have a low blood sugar level also involves the usage of a blood glucose meter, which requires a tiny sample of your blood obtained from your fingertips. However, this procedure may only be made in a clinic. Thus, it’s important to consult your doctor if you observe any signs and symptoms which include the following:
- Frequent headaches.
- Excessive sweating.
- Abnormal heartbeat.
- Hands or certain parts of the body are shivering, like for example the head or legs.
- Blurry eyesight.
- Feelings of weakness.
Also, symptoms and frequency may depend on people to people. As soon as you suspect or observe any of the above symptoms, seek medical attention immediately because it may lead to the following complications:
- A serious case of disorientation
- State of comatose
- And even death
How to regulate blood sugar levels caused by either hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia
Hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia are two distinct conditions. Thus, treatment and prevention for each also differs.
- For hyperglycemia – as mentioned earlier, we experience hyperglycemia once in a while and don’t immediately imply we have diabetes. However, it may become problematic if the blood sugar level is consistently high.
Lifestyle modification is the primary recommendation for non-threatening cases of hyperglycemia. It’s also important to allow yourself to relax once in a while because stress levels can trigger high blood sugar levels.
If you’re under intermittent fasting as part of your treatment plan, inform your doctor if blood sugar starts to rise. He may prescribe medications such as metformin to help regulate blood sugar levels.
For serious cases such as DKA, seek medical attention immediately if you observe any symptoms listed above.
- For hypoglycemia – one way to manage low blood sugar levels is to intake carbohydrate-rich foods. Some good sources of carbohydrates are glucose tablets, milk, juice, candies, table sugar, honey, carbonated drinks, and honey.
To prevent the development of hypoglycemia, you may only need to eat properly and practice regulated workouts.
Severe cases of hypoglycemia may lead to chronic cases or life-threatening situation. Thus, such cases demand immediate medical attention.
In both cases of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, we recommend for you to seek medical counsel as soon as you suspect or observe any symptoms to prevent aggravating your condition.
If you suddenly experience symptoms then you may temporarily ease them by drinking water and try to relax for the mean time. You may also try to use essential oils to help you calm your nerves.