Hyperglycemia, hyperglycaemia, or high blood sugar is a condition in which an excessive amount of glucose circulates in the blood plasma. This is generally a blood glucose level of 10+ mmol/L, but symptoms and effects may not start to become noticable until later numbers like 15-20+ mmol/L.
The origin of the term is Greek: hyper-, meaning excessive; -glyc-, meaning sweet; and -emia, meaning "of the blood".
A high proportion of patients suffering an acute stress such as stroke or myocardial infarction may develop hyperglycemia, even in the absence of a diagnosis of diabetes. Human and animal studies suggest that this is not benign, and that stress-induced hyperglycemia is associated with a high risk of mortality after both stroke and myocardial infarction.
Scientific journals are moving towards using mmol/L; some journals now use mmol/L as the primary unit but quote mg/dl in parentheses.
Glucose levels vary before and after meals, and at various times of day; the definition of "normal" varies among medical professionals. In general, the normal range for most people (fasting adults) is about 80 to 120 mg/dL or 4 to 7 mmol/L. A subject with a consistent range above 126 mg/dL or 7 mmol/L is generally held to have hyperglycemia, whereas a consistent range below 70 mg/dL or 4 mmol/L is considered hypoglycemic. In fasting adults, blood plasma glucose should not exceed 126 mg/dL or 7 mmol/L. Sustained higher levels of blood sugar cause damage to the blood vessels and to the organs they supply, leading to the complications of diabetes.
Chronic hyperglycemia can be measured via the HbA1c test. The definition of acute hyperglycemia varies by study, with mmol/L levels from 8 to 15.
The following symptoms may be associated with acute or chronic hyperglycemia, with the first three comprising the classic hyperglycaemic triad:
Frequent hunger without other symptoms can also indicate that blood sugar levels are too low. This may occur when people who have diabetes take too much oral hypoglycemic medication or insulin for the amount of food they eat. The resulting drop in blood sugar level to below the normal range prompts a hunger response. This hunger is not usually as pronounced as in Type I diabetes, especially the juvenile onset form, but it makes the prescription of oral hypoglycemic medication difficult to manage.
Symptoms of acute hyperglycemia may include:
Treatment of hyperglycemia requires elimination of the underlying cause, e.g., treatment of diabetes when diabetes is the cause. Acute and severe hyperglycemia can be treated by direct administration of insulin in most cases, under medical supervision.
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