High Blood Glucose – Hyperglycaemia

Hyperglycaemia means having a high blood glucose level.

Common causes of hyperglycaemia include inadequate levels of insulin or incorrect doses of diabetes oral medications, infections, excess carbohydrate intake, and stressful situations.

Hyperglycaemia can develop over hours or days, and many people do not experience symptoms from hyperglycaemia until their blood glucose levels are extremely high.

Hyperglycaemia can also occur at the time of initial diagnosis of diabetes and may go unrecognised until the person is clearly unwell. If untreated the victim gradually deteriorates and can go into a diabetic coma.

Recognition of Hyperglycaemia

When blood glucose levels remain above normal levels signs and symptoms may include:

  • Excessive thirst
  • Frequent urination
  • Dry skin and mouth with sunken eyes
  • Recent weight loss
  • Rapid pulse and breathing
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Confusion, a deteriorating level of consciousness or unresponsiveness.

Management of Hyperglycaemia

If a person with diabetes has a diabetes management plan, then that plan should be followed.

If the victim has no management plan and has signs or symptoms of hyperglycaemia, they should be assessed by a health care professional.

  • If the victim is unresponsive and not breathing normally, commence resuscitation.
  • If the victim is unconscious but breathing, lie the victim on their side and ensure the airway is clear.

Management when unsure if the blood glucose level is high or low.

When unsure if the victim has a high or low blood glucose level, the safest option is to treat as for hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose level). Treatment may lead to a marked improvement if the blood glucose level is low and is unlikely to do harm if the blood glucose level is high.