Hyperglycemia vs. Hypoglycemia (Symptoms and Differences)

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Both hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is bad for the health of your body, which could cause a number of complications if left untreated. In general, they are pretty common in diabetics – however, sometimes they also can occur in non-diabetics. Are there any early symptoms and signs when you are having these conditions? And what are the differences of both conditions?

Causes and symptoms of hyperglycemia

It’s perfectly normal to have blood sugar (glucose) fluctuation throughout the day, and all people can have it. But when blood sugar rises higher than normal, it is considered a problem that must be treated. Hyperglycemia is pretty common both in type-1 and type-2 diabetes – even it also can occur in gestational diabetes.

Hyperglycemia and diabetes are often found together. In people with diabetes, their insulin resistance is the key factor of why they are more vulnerable to develop high blood sugar.

However, hyperglycemia can be prevented and managed – even though if you have diabetes. Appropriate diet, regular exercise, and some glucose-lowering medicines if necessary can help lower your risk. Before continuing, it is much better to completely understand about the role of insulin for your glucose metabolism in here!

In non-diabetics and diabetic, here are a few bad lifestyles that provoke the problem (reference).

You need to have plenty of physical activity (regular exercise) to help improve the performance of your insulin (a crucial hormone of your body that has function to maintain and regulate the level of glucose in the bloodstream).

The insulin response will decrease gradually as we get older. And lack of physical activity can make it get worse.

This can include,

  1. eating a large meal at short time
  2. sticking with irregular meals
  3. skipping your breakfast
  4. eating too many unhealthy foods (particularly foods high in simple carbohydrate and saturated fat)
  5. eating food too quickly, etc.

In diabetics, the following are some conditions that can trigger hyperglycemia:

  1. When patients who have a prescription of taking insulin /other glucose-lowering medicines from their doctor, but they skip these medications or they don’t get enough of taking these medications.
  2. If patients don’t follow the treatment plan that made by their healthcare provider. Treatment plan for diabetes is a long lifetime commitment. This important to keep maintaining the blood glucose /sugar as close to normal for anytime as possible.
  3. Having infection, surgery, injury, or illness.
  4. Taking steroids.
  5. Uncontrolled stress.

In addition, most symptoms of diabetes is also associated with high blood sugar. Here is a helpful link for more detailed information about these symptoms.

Causes and symptoms of hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia is the opposite way of hyperglycemia. Here is a helpful section to tell you when your blood sugar is categorized too low. Many times, it is a consequence of diabetes treatment, particularly for type-1 diabetes.

Furthermore, it could also be a sign of something else other than diabetes.

When you have hypoglycemia, the first  goal of treatment is to restore the blood sugar back into a normal level as quickly as possible.

Your doctor may take some quick steps (either with medications or high-food sugar). Then when everything is back to normal, finding the exact cause of the problem matters. The further treatment is dependent of the cause of your hypoglycemia.

Several health conditions can lead to  hypoglycemia. These include (reference):

  1. Diabetes, particularly type-1 diabetes. In people with type-1, they usually need to take insulin replacement or insulin injection to help control their blood glucose since their pancreas is no longer to produce insulin optimally. But sometimes taking insulin replacement can put them at greater chance of getting excessive insulin in the bloodstream. As a result, glucose in the bloodstream can decrease significantly at short time. Therefore, it’s important for them to follow the instructions from their doctor on how to take insulin properly.
  2. Certain critical illness such as severe hepatitis.
  3. Taking certain medications (such as quinine – it is commonly used to treat malaria).
  4. Endocrine deficiencies. This condition can be potential to cause a deficiency of hormones that help maintain the productions of glucose in the body.
  5. Certain health conditions that can trigger the overproduction of insulin, such as insulinoma (a kind of tumor that affects pancreas).

Excessive consumption of alcohol could another culprit. Alcohol in the body can block the mechanism of liver in releasing glycogen (stored glucose) into the bloodstream.

Hypoglycemia symptoms depend on the severity of how far your blood sugar level drops.

  1. For mild severity, it can cause increased hunger feeling and may also be followed with vomiting. Patient may also experience an increased rate of heart’s beats. Moreover, clammy /cold skin, excessive sweating, and jittery & increased anxiety may also occur.
  2. Moderate hypoglycemia symptoms may include the presence of abnormal behavior, confusion, short-tempered feeling, blurred vision, and even loss of balance (difficulty walking).
  3. And in severe condition, patients can experience unconsciousness, coma or even death if not treated promptly!

Hyperglycemia vs. hypoglycemia (what are the differences?)

While hyperglycemia can affect all types of diabetes, hypoglycemia is likely associated with type-1 diabetes (it is very rare in type-2 diabetes) – as noted before. The following are a few the differences between both of them.

Blood sugar level is higher than 100 mg /dL when fasting. Blood sugar is considered too low if it is lower than 50 mg /dL when fasting.
It is more likely to occur after meal. It tends to occur if you have not eaten for long hours. In a few cases, it also can occur after meal (postprandial hypoglycemia) if you have had a gastric bypass surgery. Postprandial hypoglycemia can occur if your body produces too much insulin (higher than your body needs).
In diabetics, it occurs when the cells of the body are less responsive to insulin (type-2 diabetes) or if there is lack of insulin in the bloodstream (type-1 diabetes), as a result glucose cannot be optimally absorbed by cells of the body. In diabetics, it occurs when the injection of insulin is over than the body needs. Again, it is more common in type-1 than in type-2! See also the differences of type-1 and type-2 diabetes in here!
The link between hyperglycemia and seizures is not clear yet (still debatable). It’s clear that hypoglycemia can be one of trigger factors of seizures.

Both conditions are a disorder of your glucose metabolism, which can cause serious problems if left untreated. Fortunately, they also can be prevented (regardless whether or not you have diabetes)!


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