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The rate of diabetes in the United States increased nearly 167 percent between 1980 and 2011. Understanding the basics of diabetes is crucial for individuals who are interested in keeping this dangerous condition in check. Both diabetes and hyperglycemia are characterized by high blood sugar -- in fact, people with diabetes may occasionally become hyperglycemic -- but the causes and treatments for each condition are somewhat different 3.
Diabetes is a disorder characterized by high amounts of sugar in the bloodstream that occurs as a result of a lack of insulin or insulin insensitivity -- and while there are a number of ways in which diabetes can be diagnosed, the use of the standardized blood tests are especially popular. Individuals who have an A1c level equal to or greater than 6.5 percent, a fasting plasma glucose level equal to or greater than 126 milligrams per deciliter or an oral glucose tolerance test level equal to or greater than 200 mg/dL after two hours of drinking a sweetened beverage -- or a random plasma glucose level of equal to or greater than 200 mg/dL -- may be diagnosed with diabetes. In most cases, tests will be performed at least twice to confirm the findings, notes the American Diabetes Association 34.
Difficulties in Diagnosing Diabetes
As with diabetes, hyperglycemia is characterized by high amounts of sugar in the bloodstream -- and in fact, most healthy adults will experience a slight increase in blood sugar levels to greater than 100 mg/dL shortly after eating a meal 3. Unlike diabetes, however, hyperglycemia may not always be related to a lack of insulin or insulin sensitivity; instead, it can occur as the result of stress, chronic or acute illness, prescription or illegal medication use and even pregnancy 3. People who have been diagnosed with diabetes will likely experience increases in blood sugar from time to time.
Treatment for Diabetes
Depending on the severity of the condition, the treatment for diabetes and hyperglycemia can vary substantially 3. In fact, people who have been diagnosed with Type I diabetes -- and lack insulin supplies in the body -- may need to inject themselves with this hormone each day. People with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes are encouraged to follow a healthy diet that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy foods, as well as to limit simple carbohydrates and saturated fats, notes Nelms et al.
Treatment for Hyperglycemia
How Does Diabetes Occur?
People who experience occasional hyperglycemia unrelated to diabetes should increase physical activity and limit their intake of simple carbohydrates 3. Hyperglycemia that is not caused by diabetes requires prompt medication attention, report Nelms et al 3. in "Nutrition Therapy and Pathophysiology." In fact, individuals who develop hyperglycemia as a result of chronic illness, infection or stress will likely be required to undergo extensive testing to pinpoint an accurate diagnosis. Treatment with prescription medications, such as antibiotics, is sometimes recommended for individuals who develop hyperglycemia as a result of infection. Hyperglycemia that occurs as a result of chronic illness, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or kidney disease may also requirement treatment with prescription medications.
- People who experience occasional hyperglycemia unrelated to diabetes should increase physical activity and limit their intake of simple carbohydrates 3.
- Treatment with prescription medications, such as antibiotics, is sometimes recommended for individuals who develop hyperglycemia as a result of infection.
Complications of Diabetes and Hyperglycemia
When left untreated, diabetes and hyperglycemia can both cause serious complications (Reference 3) 34. In fact, individuals who have been diagnosed with diabetes and fail to manage the condition can develop numbness in the feet, kidney disease or blindness, and have increased risk of stroke (Reference 5). According to the Nelms et al., hyperglycemia should not be ignored -- as uncontrolled cases of the condition can lead to coma or even possible death. Be sure to follow all healthcare recommendations to ensure optimal control of both diabetes and hyperglycemia, and to prevent the development of these complications 34.
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- Nutrition Therapy and Pathophysiology; Marcia Nelms et al.
- American Diabetes Association: Hyperglycemia
- American Diabetes Association: Complications
- Share Care: Can I Have Elevated Blood Sugar Without Having Diabetes?
- Managing your blood sugar: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. May 17, 2018.
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- Okano J, Kojima H, Katagi M, et al. Hyperglycemia Induces Skin Barrier Dysfunctions with Impairment of Epidermal Integrity in Non-Wounded Skin of Type 1 Diabetic Mice. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(11):e0166215. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0166215
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- Family Health History and Diabetes | CDC. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Jul 18, 2017.
- Farrar D. Hyperglycemia in pregnancy: prevalence, impact, and management challenges. Int J Womens Health. 2016;8:519-527. doi:10.2147/IJWH.S102117
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- Sari MI, Sari N, Darlan DM, Prasetya RJ. Cigarette Smoking and Hyperglycaemia in Diabetic Patients. Open Access Maced J Med Sci. 2018;6(4):634-637. doi:10.3889/oamjms.2018.140
- Medagama AB. The glycaemic outcomes of Cinnamon, a review of the experimental evidence and clinical trials. Nutr J. 2015;14:108. doi:10.1186/s12937-015-0098-9
- Pramlintide Injection: MedlinePlus Drug Information. MedlinePlus. July 15, 2018.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA Alerts Patients and Health Care Professionals to Nitrosamine Impurity Finding in Certain Metformin Extended-Release Products. May 28, 2020
- American Diabetes Association. High Blood Glucose. Mar 21, 2017.
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- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The A1CTest & Diabetes. Apr 2018.
Kathryn Vera holds a master's degree in exercise physiology, as well as licensure as a Registered Dietitian. Currently, she works as a Clinical Exercise Physiologist in Cardiac Rehabilitation, where she provides care to patients living with chronic heart disease.