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Spotting the Warning Signs: Hypoglycemia vs. Hyperglycemia

What are the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia? 

  1. What is Diabetes Mellitus?
  2. What is the role of insulin?
  3. What are the different types of diabetes mellitus?
  4. What are the first common signs of diabetes mellitus?
  5. What causes hypoglycemia (low blood sugar level)?
  6. How do you manage hypoglycemia?
  7. How can you prevent hypoglycemia?
  8. What causes hyperglycemia?
  9. How can you maintain a normal blood sugar level? 

What is Diabetes Mellitus?

A group of different diseases that are characterized by significantly high blood sugar levels. It can happen because of either insulin deficiency, insulin resistance, or insufficient insulin production.

What is the role of insulin?

Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas. The main role of insulin is to get glucose from the bloodstream, into the body cells are muscles used for energy. When insulin production is influenced in any way, and its functionality becomes compromised, you may develop diabetes mellitus.

What are the different types of diabetes mellitus?

All the different types of diabetes mellitus may present with significantly high glucose readings. Type 1 diabetes is common in children because of an autoimmune disorder that causes insulin deficiency. The early signs of type 1 diabetes may include:

  • Significant unexplained weight loss, often because of glucosuria (loss of glucose through urine).
  • Polyuria, which is basically frequent urination.
  • Polydipsia, frequent thirst.
  • Polyphagia, is frequent hunger, usually because of calorie loss through urine.

All these symptoms are very common in children with type 1 diabetes, who then may need to be on insulin therapy.

Type 2 diabetes is common in adults. Type 2 diabetes has many modifiable risk factors;

  • Unhealthy diet.
  • Lack of physical exercises.
  • Obesity.
  • Extreme use of alcohol and smoking.
  • Hypertension.

And other nonmodifiable factors like;

  • Age.
  • Sex.
  • Or a previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes.

The symptoms of type 2 diabetes are more or less the same as those of type 1 diabetes.

Other types of diabetes mellitus include;

  • Gestational diabetes (that is diagnosed in the 2nd or 3rd trimester) often resolves after delivery.
  • LADA ( latent autoimmune Diabetes in Adults). Presents almost as type 1 Diabetes.
  • Others may be caused due to cancer of the pancreas, infections, or injuries to the pancreas that may lead to insufficient production of insulin.

What are the first common signs of diabetes mellitus?

  1. Significant weight loss, due to loss of calories in urine.
  2. Polydipsia (dehydration) in other words excessive thirst.
  3. Significant fatigue.
  4. Polyuria, frequent urination.
  5. Significant hunger.
  6. Delayed healing of infections and wounds.
  7. Recurrent vaginal /oral thrush.
  8. Mood changes, usually in hyperglycemia.
  9. Decreased level of consciousness, usually in hypoglycemia.
  10. Blurred vision, when hyperglycemia remains untreated over a long period.
  11. Coma and shock.
  12. Sometimes abdominal pain and vomiting.

What causes hypoglycemia?

  • When you exercise more than you should, you can easily burn too many calories and get into hypoglycemia.
  • When you delay eating or skip meals, especially when you are on medications or when you get your insulin injection and then do not eat, you will go into hypoglycemia.
  • When you do not use insulin appropriately or when you overuse it, what we call an insulin overdose.
  • When your diet has no carbohydrates at all (we always recommend a lower carbohydrate diet sourced from complex carbohydrates, and we do not restrict carbohydrates completely).
  • Taking too much alcohol can quickly lead to hypoglycemia, even when you are not diabetic.
  • When you combine medications, without proper guidance from a trained medical practitioner.

How do you manage hypoglycemia?

  • If awake, the patient can be given oral glucose or a sweetened drink to increase the glucose level.
  • NB: fatty foods and drinks are discouraged as they can slow down the process of boosting glucose levels.
  • If the patient is unconscious, an IV glucose bolus can be administered, and normal feeding can resume once the patient is awake.

How can you prevent hypoglycemia?

  • Always eat after taking your medications, or after your insulin shot.
  • Be careful not to over-exercise, if you are in any sports, monitor your blood glucose levels very closely.
  • Follow meal times very carefully, and avoid skipping meals.
  • Eat a balanced diet, including carbohydrates, and only master portion control.
  • Get your diabetes medications prescribed by a doctor, avoid over-the-counter medications, and combine medications without proper guidance.

What causes hyperglycemia?

  • Eating too many simple carbohydrates from over-processed foods and snacks like soda, cakes, and biscuits.
  • Not taking your medications on time.
  • Not taking medications at all.
  • Infections.
  • Taking too many unhealthy snacks.

How can you maintain a normal blood glucose level?

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