The Difference Between Hyperglycemia and Hypoglycemia and What to Do About It
Diabetes is defined as a condition which can be managed if one makes sure to balance out their insulin injections and medication with activity and food.
When such a balance is upset, two things can occur: either one’s blood glucose levels soar and hyperglycemia happens, or the opposite, hypoglycemia, where one’s blood glucose levels drop too low.
The truth of the matter is that no matter how careful one is, they are bound to experience hypers or hypos from time to time.
There are certain diabetes medications (as well as insulin) which can result in hypos.
That’s why it’s so important to check in with one’s professional healthcare team to make sure that our current treatment does not cause hypos.
How Much is Too Low?
That would be lower than 4 mmol/l, in which our body cannot be sufficiently supplied with the energy it needs to function properly.
- Feeling hungry
- Blurry vision
- Hard time concentrating
- Mood swings
But keep in mind that hypo symptoms may vary from person to person.
Why Do They Happen?
There is no real answer to this question, only certain speculations as to what might cause a hypo.
Some of which are missing out on meals, too much insulin, not enough carbohydrates, drinking too much alcohol (especially on an empty stomach) and spontaneous physical activity.
But at times no obvious reason can be noted.
Ways To Prevent A Hypo
- Eat a decent amount of carbs
- Don’t skip meals
- Eat even more carbs if you plan on doing more physical activity than usual
- Make sure to take the insulin injections and tablets correctly
- Don’t overdose on alcohol
How to Treat a Hypo
If you are still conscious, act quickly by treating the hypo with 15-20 grams of carbohydrates. Ideal choices are:
- Glucose tablets
- Pure fruit juice
- A non-diet, sugary drink
- Glucose gel
- Sweets, like jelly babies
In some cases, we might need another carb snack of 15-20 grams in order to prevent our glucose levels from plummeting again.
The ideal choices for our second snack are one piece of fruit, a sandwich, milk, and biscuits, or some cereal.
It is advisable to retest our glucose levels once about 15 to 20 minutes have passed in order to make sure they are not still beneath 4 mmol/l.
On answering the question which hypo treatment would work best for us personally, that is something we must find out for ourselves.
Like we said, each individual is different, but it might help to consult with your healthcare professional about what might best suit you.
Furthermore, it is always a smart idea to check the packaging’s label, since some sweets and carbs may not be efficient enough to help raise our blood glucose levels back to normal.
This means we may have a severe type of hypo and in such a situation we need aid from someone in treating the hypo.
What they will need to do is:
- Arrange our body into what is known as the recovery position. This means our body to the side, and our head tilted back with knees bent.
- A glucagon injection – some patients are prescribed these, and it’s always a good idea to ask if we need such a thing as well.
- If they don’t happen to have a glucogen kit at the moment (or if they don’t know how to give one, or if you do not recover after 10 minutes since taking the injection), quickly call for an ambulance.
Note: Be sure to inform your close ones that if you fall unconscious (or cannot swallow properly), you mustn’t be given anything orally.
Keeping Glucose High is Not the Answer
Though this seems to be a question which is often asked, it will not help our hypo. Constantly high blood sugar is dangerous on their own as they may lead to a number of complications.
Some of which include: heart attack, kidney disease, blindness, stroke, amputations of lower limbs.
Some Things to Keep In Mind About Hypos
- Hypo treatments should be on us at every moment.
- In case we are experiencing nighttime hypos, make sure to test blood glucose levels before going to bed as well as during the night.
- It’s always best to carry any identification object, such as a necklace, card or bracelet. This is for and if we cannot communicate while having a hypo, people will know what to do.
- Some people who have had diabetes for a long time may not notice symptoms of a hypo coming on. Those are the cases of the dreaded unexpected hypos. Furthermore, if they have been getting hypos for a long time now, their symptoms might disappear over time. That’s why it’s important to carry a treatment kit with us all the time. One can never predict 100% when a hypo might happen.
- Hypos (even severe ones) should not be all that frequent. If they are, we might need to make some changes to our diabetes treatment. Once again, it’s best to consult with the healthcare team.
Low blood glucose may occur during the nighttime, and it can happen that some individuals with milder symptoms don’t even wake up while experiencing a hypo.
That can only spell bad news as those symptoms may eventually worsen, and a more severe case of a hypo can occur.
If we didn’t wake up from the hypo, we may feel very tired the following morning. We may even have a headache, much like a hangover.
So, how to best know if one is having night-time hypos? Like we mentioned above, it’s best to do a blood test during the night.
And if it just so happens that we are experiencing nighttime hypos, then the insulin dose may need some adjusting.
Now Moving On To Hyper
Hyperglycemia is found on the opposite side of the scale. It occurs when one’s blood glucose levels are over 7mmol/l before meals and over 8.5mmol/l 2 hours following a meal.
This can occur due to several reasons:
- We have missed taking our medication
- We have consumed more carbs than our medication or body can deal with
- Feeling stressed out
- May be feeling unwell due to an infection
- Or even from treating a hypo
- Urinating more often than usual, particularly during the night
- Constantly feeling thirsty
- Feeling fatigued and lethargic
How to Treat Hypers
The treatment largely depends on what caused the hyper to begin with.
If they happen on a regular basis, it is crucial that you contact the professional diabetes healthcare team.
There may need to be changes involving our lifestyle and medication. Furthermore, if our hyper lasts for a short while, no treatment will be necessary.
However, if it lasts for a longer period than this is what we need to do:
- Drink lots of fluids free of any sugars
- If we take insulin, we might need to take an extra dose
- If we are feeling rather unwell, particularly up to the point where we may even throw up, that just means we need to ask our healthcare team for advice.
Preventing a Hyper
- Take extra precautions with how much carbs we consume and how they affect our glucose levels.
- While we are feeling ill, even if we are not eating, it is still advisable to continue taking our diabetes medication.
- Try and be as active as you can.
- Never forget to take the diabetes medication and insulin injections, and make sure that you take them in proper doses – no more, no less.
- We may just need to tweak our medication or take more if our diabetes healthcare team thinks it’s best.
Make sure to keep a constant check on the diabetes situation and try to make the right life choices in order to avoid both any hypos or hypers.
And remember, sometimes they can occur for no explainable reason at all, which doesn’t mean we should stop taking care of our health.
The best way to do so is to keep well informed of all the newest information and medical discoveries.