The Telltale Signs and Symptoms of High Blood Sugar
Category: Healthy Living
Posted on March 20, 2021
Vanessa is a health writer and blogging expert. Her specialities are medicine, health and wellness. She is proud to call Vancouver, BC her home where she enjoys the ocean and mountains with her dog Mr. ChowChow.
Our body is a wonderfully designed piece of engineering, and the reality is that we are often unaware of the effort it goes to keep us healthy.
One aspect vital to our well being is the condition of our blood. Whether it be an iron deficiency or high blood pressure, most people are aware that a blood issue affects the whole body.
Perhaps one of the most common complications related to blood is high blood sugar, known as hyperglycemia. It is most common among people with diabetes; however, as up to 3.7 million Canadians suffer from this condition, its prevalence is clear.
Getting familiar with the causes and symptoms of high blood sugar becomes more significant as this number rises to 11 million when we consider those suffering from prediabetes (those with high sugar but not yet deemed diabetic) or are yet undiagnosed.
With this in mind, we have isolated the main symptoms and signs that one needs to look out for to help you keep aware of any potential risks you may face.
Before doing so, we will show you the causes, dangers, and how you can prevent and manage high blood sugar.
How the Body Maintains Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
To understand why hyperglycemia should be a major concern for all, it is important to know exactly how the body works to maintain a normal sugar level.
Glucose is the fuel that feeds our cells and gives our bodies the energy that we need. While it is stored and can be provided by the body itself via our liver and muscles, the main source that our bodies depend upon is food.
When we eat food, the carbohydrates that we have eaten are broken down by our digestive tract into glucose. For our cells to absorb the glucose, we need insulin, which is produced in the pancreas. Once absorbed, the cells can then turn the glucose into energy or store it for later use.
The system is extremely efficient, as the body can regulate just how much insulin is needed, rising when you eat and dropping off when the digestive system has finished its work.
We don't even notice this happening is a testament to how great this usually works in most people. If someone hasn't eaten, the fasting rate of blood sugar is expected to be approximately 100 mg/dL.
With this in mind, we can begin to see just how important a role insulin plays in our body function normally. If this doesn't happen as it should, it leads to a build-up of sugar in the blood as it has nowhere else to go.
What Are the Causes of High Blood Sugar?
When we eat, it is normal that our blood sugar levels would spike as we are introducing an amount of fuel to our bodies. Some foods produce far more glucose than others, namely starchy high-carb foods and food high in sugar.
Due to the magnificent operation we have going on through our body via our pancreas, a sharp rise in insulin is enough for us to use up all the excess sugar and get it where it needs to be.
The reasons for high blood sugar come down to two main areas. We can't produce enough insulin, leading to it storing in our bloodstream, or our cells have become insulin resistant.
Type 1 diabetes is when your body cannot produce enough insulin. It affects only 10% of those diagnosed with diabetes in Canada. Although diagnosed mainly while one is young, it can come later in life.
Type 2 diabetes is when your cells become insulin resistant and account for the vast majority of the cases of diabetes in the world. Although it is extremely common, the reasons it appears are not entirely clear. There are, however, clear links with environmental factors such as living an inactive lifestyle and diet.
As there can be serious consequences if not managed, a person with diabetes needs to be conscious of not only what they eat, but additional factors that can trigger their sugar levels to rise. These typically include things such as:
- Eating too many carbohydrates and sugars
- Being ill
- Being under stress
- Having an infection
- Not using your insulin shot or alternative medication (Type 1)
- Steroid treatment
- Lack of exercise or movement
- Too much physical activity if our sugar levels are high and insulin is low
So what exactly are the dangers for one who has high blood sugar?
Why Should You Be Concerned About High Blood Sugar?
Because blood runs throughout our bodies, any condition that affects the blood is serious. Having a high blood sugar level is particularly dangerous due to the range of conditions it is connected to.
Excess glucose in our blood is connected to heart disease, kidney failure, blindness. It can also lead to major damage to other organs, our nervous system, and even our blood vessels.
On occasion, hyperglycemia can develop due to serious illnesses such as pancreatic cancer, pancreatitis, or an overactive thyroid. It can also develop after taking certain medications such as prednisone, estrogens, and beta-blockers.
The most common condition that a high blood sugar level is connected to, however, is diabetes, as mentioned earlier. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can lead to hyperglycemia, although Type 1 is more associated with having a low blood sugar level (hypoglycemia).
One very serious condition that can develop is called Diabetic Ketoacidosis.
If the body cannot access the sugar to provide the energy that it needs, it turns to its emergency energy source, our fat. However, it produces ketones in the blood that are acidic and, if produced in large amounts, can be toxic.
The consequences of this can be kidney damage, excess fluid in the lungs, swelling in the brain, and even death.
The problem often found with high blood sugar is that when we start to notice any complications, our blood sugar is often already too high. Therefore it is important to be able to note the small signs that we may have it, to nip it in the bud.
To help you keep on top of this, we will now isolate the main signs of high blood sugar.
Without a doubt, dealing with fatigue is the most common signal that they may have high blood sugar. For most people, after having a carb-loaded meal, our body calls for the sofa, but if you have high blood sugar, it is particularly noticeable. This is because without our insulin working correctly, our cells cannot receive the energy necessary to give us a boost.
Tiredness alone, however, can't be relied upon as a signal of hyperglycemia as it is connected to many other conditions, included among them, having a low blood sugar level.
Therefore it is always best to note this symptom along with the others that we will mention before speaking to your doctor.
Frequent Urination and Increased Thirst
As highlighted earlier, our bodies are highly efficient and try to fight off any potential problems that they may encounter. Therefore one way of seeking to dispose of the excess glucose in our bodies is by making you go to the toilet more.
Our kidneys are the culprits, going into overdrive in a condition called polyuria.
As a consequence, we become dehydrated, leading to another symptom, wanting to drink more water. So pay attention to if you are more thirsty than usual.
Having regular splitting headaches is another sign that you have high blood sugar. It is again linked to dehydration, yet this symptom is an early sign and can get more severe as time goes on.
As it is an early sign, it would be good to check your sugar levels should you suspect it to be a reason for the headache. Doing so will enable you to quickly make any necessary changes to bring your levels down.
People with hyperglycemia can also be susceptible to developing a condition called polyphagia, where you begin to lose weight. This makes sense, as when your body cannot access the energy needed from glucose, it turns to the fat that we already have.
As a consequence, we may, although having an increase in appetite, be losing weight in an unexplained fashion. As a final resort, your body also turns to the energy stores found in your muscles resulting in you feeling weaker overall.
High blood sugar surprisingly affects our eyesight. The sugars produce additional water in our eyes, and this can lead to you having swollen lenses, disturbing your vision.
This, fortunately, tends to be a temporary symptom; however, if prolonged, it could be a sign of something more serious. Be sure to see a doctor if this is the case for you.
Hyperglycemia harms our immune system. This means that we may struggle to fight off infections that we would have no problem with otherwise. As well as becoming more regular, we may also struggle to shake them off, needing to take treatment for longer periods than usual.
Among women, yeast infections, in particular, are more frequent. This is because as the sugars are release due to increased urination, this brings it into contact with yeast. Unfortunately, yeast survives and lives off sugar, hence the increase in yeast infections.
Teeth problems are another symptom of high sugar levels. Why is this the case?
The reason is that the excess sugar also lies in our saliva and feeds any bacteria living there. One of the first signals of this is bleeding tender gums. However, another sign may be the development of plaque due to the combining of the existing glucose and the food you eat.
Therefore pay close attention while you are brushing your teeth for any potential infections.
Slow Healing Sores
Blood circulation can be slowed down when one has diabetes, causing problems in wounds and sores healing. This is because our blood is a vital aspect of the healing process.
Most sufferers note problems, particularly in their legs and feet, and need to be vigilant when it comes to infection of any sores. In the worst-case scenario, it can lead to the amputation of the feet or a lower leg.
Managing High Blood Sugar
Although it is important to have knowledge of these symptoms, the best way to be sure of your blood sugar level is to have it checked by a doctor or checking it yourself.
This being said, particularly concerning Type 2 diabetes, much can be done to bring down your blood sugar. Living a healthy lifestyle by monitoring what you eat and doing regular exercise all aid in reducing high blood sugar.
Drinking water regularly is also proven to help prevent sudden spikes in sugar levels.
As not all foods have the same effect on everybody, consulting a nutritionist has proved useful for some. Keeping a record of the foods you eat and even carb counting are other options for you to take control of the situation.
The best means for those with Type 1 diabetes is to make sure that they have a good supply of insulin medication and to use it correctly. As the production of ketones is a more common amount Type 1 suffers, make sure you have a urine strip or ketone tester to hand, especially after vigorous exercise.
High Blood Sugar Can Be Beaten
As we have seen, high blood sugar can prove to be costly to our health. That is why being familiar with how our body works and the signals it uses to tell us that something is wrong is so important.
There may be times, however, when the best option is to take medication. Whether it comes to lowering or increasing your blood sugar levels, we at Pricepro have all the medications to help you in your moments of need.
Check us out today!