20 Signs of High Blood Sugar

6. Increased appetite This is a recognized indicator of high blood sugar levels. Excessive hunger or increased appetite is called polyphagia. It’s been described as ‘starving… Simi - June 28, 2018
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6. Increased appetite

This is a recognized indicator of high blood sugar levels. Excessive hunger or increased appetite is called polyphagia. It’s been described as ‘starving in the land of plenty.’ No matter how much you eat or how frequently you eat, you never feel full. How can it be possible? Polyphagia is not unique to people with high blood sugar levels. It can also occur in people with eating disorders, stress, depression, anxiety, or hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland).

If your blood sugar levels are high, the sugar is not absorbed into your system where the cells convert it to energy. Your body does not absorb the glucose either because it doesn’t produce insulin, or because it has developed insulin resistance. Whichever of these is the cause, the problem remains that your body is prevented from absorbing the glucose. The glucose is then expelled from the body.

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Your cells are left with no glucose to help them produce energy. This will immediately make you feel hungry. Your cells are crying out for glucose. So, they’ll send messages to your brain to convince you that you’re hungry. But no matter how much you eat, it won’t help if your body can’t absorb the glucose. And if the glucose isn’t absorbed, your cells still can’t make energy.

In this situation, the best response is exercise. When you exercise, it reduces the glucose levels in the blood. This allows some to be absorbed into the cells to produce energy. In turn, this curbs your appetite. While it might not be the thing you want most at that moment, turning to exercise will help. If you experience an onset of what you believe may be polyphagia, you should see a doctor. It is vital that your blood sugar levels are tested.

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7. Your mouth feels dry all the time

The medical term for ‘dry mouth’ is xerostomia. It is a common sign of high blood sugar levels and diabetes. It is advisable to seek medical advice if you have dry mouth and suspect that you may have diabetes. Dry mouth is caused by a shortage of saliva in the mouth. The symptomatic characteristics of dry mouth are cracked or chapped lips, rough or dry tongue, mouth sores, gum or tooth cavity infections. Dry mouth makes talking, chewing, and swallowing difficult because saliva is needed for these functions.

There are many causes of dry mouth. They include kidney dialysis, protracted breathing through the mouth, and dehydration. Dry mouth can also be a result of side effects of certain medications. Scientists are still researching why people get dry mouth. Definitive reasons for certain conditions manifesting themselves through xerostomia have not yet been established. Effective treatment for dry mouth is only possible once the underlying condition causing it has been established.

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If you have high blood sugar levels, lowering them through exercise and a better diet will alleviate your dry mouth symptoms. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, your medication may help to ease the symptoms too. There are simple things you can do to treat your dry mouth. They include steering clear of foods and beverages rich in caffeine, sugar, or sweeteners, and drinking enough water.

Floss your teeth after every meal and use toothpicks to remove plaque from your teeth. Keep your teeth clean by brushing them twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, chewing gum, or sucking mints which contain xylitol. These measures keep the teeth clean to prevent sores in the mouth and oral or dental infections.

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8. You may feel short of breath

Shortness of breath is related to very high blood sugar levels. It is a sign that your blood sugar levels have been at a high level for quite some time already. If you do not treat your high blood sugar levels, you can experience ketoacidosis. This is commonly known as a diabetic coma. It is caused by a lack of insulin in the body. This lack of insulin is an indicator that your pancreas is no longer producing insulin. This is the cause of diabetes. The lack of insulin makes it impossible for your body to absorb the glucose and convert it to energy.

The body needs the energy to function. When it cannot absorb glucose to manufacture energy, it starts burning fat to make energy. As the body does this, waste by-products called ketones are produced. Ketones are bad for your body.

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When you have a large number of ketones in your bloodstream, your body tries to get rid of them through urine. However, this is not enough. So many ketones are in the blood that not all can be expelled from the body. They remain behind and build up. This leads to ketoacidosis, which is potentially fatal and must be treated immediately.

It is advised that people with ketones don’t exercise. If you experience the symptoms of ketoacidosis of which shortness of breath is one, see your doctor. Testing your blood sugar levels will determine if ketones are present in the blood. The reason is that exercising in these conditions will increase the number of ketones in the blood. Exercise burns energy. If your body has resorted to burning fat because it can’t absorb glucose, you’ll raise your ketone level. This can lead to ketoacidosis.

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9. You may find it difficult to concentrate and remember things

Memory loss, confusion, and difficulty concentrating can be related to several conditions. These include depression, stress, alcohol abuse, Alzheimer’s disease, side effects of medications, or an underactive thyroid gland. However, they are also associated with high blood sugar levels that have been untreated for some time.

The symptoms of memory loss include forgetting close friends and family members’ names or where things in your home are. You could forget something significant that happened to you, or you’ll forget something you’ve recently done. You might walk into a room and not remember why you went there in the first place.

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Confusion symptoms include not being sure where you are and how you got there, or not being able to make choices or decisions. You may find yourself in the shop unable to choose what to eat for dinner. Difficulty concentrating includes symptoms like ‘drifting off’ in the middle of a task, or inability to focus on any one thing. Sometimes you find yourself starting the same task again because you weren’t concentrating when you began.

Your memory, clarity of thought, and ability to concentrate are functions that your brain controls. The parts of the brain that control these functions may be affected by prolonged high blood sugar levels. Your body is struggling to produce energy because it cannot absorb the glucose in the bloodstream. This lack of energy production affects different parts of the body. The brain is no exception. In an effort to keep other parts of the brain and body functioning, some parts may be deprived of energy. If the parts of your brain that control memory and concentration do not receive enough energy, they cannot function optimally.

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10. You may have abdominal pain or gastrointestinal issues

Conditions that affect the gastrointestinal (GI) system are common in people with high blood sugar levels or diabetes. The length of time the blood sugar levels are raised and how high they are can take a toll on your GI tract.

A common ailment associated with high blood sugar levels is called gastroparesis. This is characterized by a delayed stomach’s ability to empty its contents. Sustained high blood sugar levels can damage the vagus nerve. This nerve is important as it assists with the regulation of the whole digestive system. When the vagus nerve is damaged, the muscles in the gastrointestinal tract cannot work properly. This results in food not being pumped through the digestive system. Instead, it stays behind, and its movement is delayed. Gastroparesis symptoms include heartburn (indigestion), vomiting food that is undigested, bloating of the stomach area, and unexplained weight loss.

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The food that lies in the stomach for protracted time periods is dangerous in that bacteria can start to grow. The food can also form solid lumps. These lumps can cause a blockage in the digestive system. The food cannot enter and move through the small intestine. This can cause intense abdominal cramping. When the food finally moves into the small intestine, it causes a spike in blood sugar levels. If these are already high, another boost can cause severe damage or illness.

The best way to deal with a condition such as gastroparesis brought on by high blood sugar levels is to eat a healthy diet and exercise. These approaches lower your blood sugar. Consider eating up to six small meals a day instead of three big ones. This allows your digestive system to process smaller amounts of food at a time.

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11. Slow healing of cuts and wounds

Cuts and wounds that don’t heal are signs that something is wrong with your health. The body’s self-healing processes are an indicator of your overall health. Within minutes of sustaining a cut or wound, the body acts immediately to begin healing it. When your body doesn’t respond this way, you need to establish the underlying cause. It could be a suppressed immune system, chronic blood circulation condition, or iron-deficiency anemia.

Wound healing is characterized by four distinct stages. The bleeding stage takes place when the wound occurs. Your body sends clotting agents to the site of the wound to stop the bleeding. During the inflammatory phase is when a scab is formed to protect the wound from the outside. The wound must be protected from infection. The proliferative stage follows. This is when the body is healing the damaged cells. In the final stage, called remodeling, the skin is healed, and the scab falls off as protection is no longer needed.

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If you see these symptoms after a cut or wound, your body could be experiencing problems with self-healing. They include swelling around the wound site, and excessive fluids leaking from the wound that is an unusual color and may smell rotten. The site of the wound will feel hot all the time, and you will experience increased pain at or around the wound site.

When cuts and wounds don’t heal, it can be a sign of sustained high blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels can cause a condition called neuropathy. This is nerve damage caused by too much glucose in the blood. This causes blood circulation problems. The healing processes are slowed down if the body cannot deliver what is required for healing to the site of the wound.

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12. You may have recurrent infections

The immune system is vital for the body’s defense against bacteria, viruses, cancer cells, and parasites the body encounters. If the immune system is deficient, it affects the body’s ability to fight off infections. A compromised immune system is a sign of several disorders.

There are primary immunodeficiency disorders that you can be born with such as X-linked agammaglobulinemia (XLA) and common variable immunodeficiency (CVID). Secondary immunodeficiency disorders occur when the body is attacked by an outside factor like a chemical or infection. Causes of a secondary immunodeficiency disorder are chemotherapy, radiation, malnutrition, and diabetes (which relates to high blood sugar levels). Examples of secondary immunodeficiency disorders are AIDS, immune system cancers such as leukemia, viral hepatitis, and multiple myeloma (cancer of the plasma cells).

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If you get conjunctivitis (pinkeye), colds, pneumonia, bronchitis, yeast infections, or sinus infections that don’t respond to treatment, something is wrong. Even if they respond to treatment but recur as soon as you stop taking medication, it is a sign your immune system is compromised. If you suspect that your immune system is not coping and may be deficient, see your doctor. Your doctor will take a full medical history, do a physical exam, test your white blood cell and T cell counts, and check your immunoglobin levels.

High blood sugar levels affect how your immune system works. The inflammation in the cells from too much glucose in the blood prevents oxygen and the necessary defense cells from reaching the infection. Since the soldiers can’t reach the battlefield, the enemy has time to take hold and spread its control. In wounds, this can lead to fungal infections such as gangrene taking hold, resulting in amputations.

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13. Your skin may be drier than usual and itchy

Itching is a common diabetes symptom, and diabetes is associated with high blood sugar levels. People with diabetes are more likely to experience itching skin than those who don’t have it. If you have high blood sugar levels or suspect you might, do not ignore your itchy skin. Left untreated, high blood sugar levels are dangerous, and the damage done to your skin from the itching could be serious.

Damaged nerve fibers at the skin’s surface caused by too much glucose in the blood could cause itchy skin. This condition is called neuropathy. It’s possible that the itching is signaling that nerve damage is not yet done but is about to happen. When neuropathy starts, the body releases cytokines. These inflammatory substances cause itching of the skin. This indicates the risk of imminent nerve damage and requires the intervention of a doctor. Itchy skin can also be the result of eczema, psoriasis, sunburn, or athlete’s foot.

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Look out for itching in the lower extremities as a sign of neuropathy. The itching may be experienced all over the body. It makes clothes uncomfortable, is constant, and can keep you awake at night. Scratching your skin until it bleeds places you at further risk if your high blood sugar levels have compromised your immune system. The skin won’t heal and will be susceptible to infection.

Treat itchy skin with lotions straight after bathing. Make sure that you are not allergic or sensitive to the products you are using as this will cause itching. If itchy skin is the result of high blood sugar levels, management of the condition through diet or medications will ease the itching.

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14. You may experience numbness or pain in your extremities

Poor circulation affects your hands and fingers more than any other body parts. When you have too much sugar in your blood, it thickens and moves more slowly. That, coupled with the damage that high blood sugar levels cause to the blood vessels, compromises your circulatory system. Blood vessels narrow from the inflammation which makes it even harder for the thickened blood to move.

Blood is not moving to and from the hands and feet as normal anymore. You’ll experience symptoms such as cold or numb hands and feet, brittle nails, dry or cracked skin, and hair loss on the feet. For paler-skinned people, you will notice a blue tint to your hands and feet.

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The consequences of numbness in the extremities due to high blood sugar levels can be dire. You could get a small cut or scratch on your foot and not even be aware of it. The fact that your immune system may be deficient due to the high blood sugar levels means that healing will be delayed or won’t occur at all. The lack of circulation makes it difficult for the immune system to even respond to the injury.

An infection may take hold. Fungal infections can lead to gangrene. So, can necrosis, which is the premature death of the cells due to a lack of blood. If gangrene is not treated early, it can result in amputation to prevent it from spreading. In addition to various other health benefits, exercise lowers the blood sugar levels. This allows blood to move more easily to the extremities. The fact that your heart rate increases during exercise stimulate your circulation system as well.

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15. You may experience impotence or infertility

Men with high blood sugar levels often experience erectile dysfunction. This is a very sensitive subject, which most men won’t broach. But if you have developed this problem, you need to see your doctor for advice. High blood sugar levels thicken the blood and damage the blood vessels. This can affect the blood supply to the penis and affect the ability to obtain and sustain an erection. This can be frustrating for the man and his partner. It can lead to depression and other mood disorders.

Seeing a doctor is important. He/she will investigate the underlying causes of your erectile dysfunction. It can be related to high blood sugar levels, but heart disease, high blood pressure, or elevated cholesterol levels are also causes. If you have high blood sugar levels, maintain a healthy diet and exercise program to lower your blood sugar levels and prevent nerve damage. Counseling to address the stress and anxiety that comes with erectile dysfunction is also recommended. If necessary, your doctor will prescribe medicine for you.

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For women, high blood sugar levels can affect their chances of falling pregnant. High sugar levels affect hormone levels in the body. Any disruption to the delicate balance of hormones in the body can prevent pregnancy. After prolonged high blood sugar levels, the body may develop insulin resistance. This will affect her body’s ability to ovulate. It also affects the ability of the egg to attach to the uterus after fertilization. Women with high blood sugar levels are also vulnerable to yeast infections which can prevent the sperm from reaching the egg.

For women planning to fall pregnant, it is vital to make sure your blood sugar levels are not high. If they are, you need to take steps to keep them under control to improve your chances of falling pregnant.

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16. Fruity-smelling breath

If you notice your breath has a fruity smell, it’s a possible pre-cursor to diabetes and indicates that your blood sugar is dangerously high. There are two blood sugar-related causes of fruity-smelling breath.

The first is Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA). This is a life-threatening condition and needs urgent medical intervention. It is triggered by the body’s production of high levels of ketones. These blood acids normally occur in the body. But high blood sugar levels can trigger an overproduction of ketones. This can be fatal if left untreated. If treated immediately, DKA has no lasting effects on the body.

But with no treatment, it can cause permanent damage to the body. It is a rare occurrence. But if you have high blood sugar and are not being treated for it, DKA may follow. The symptoms of DKA include stomach pain, nausea, fever, vomiting, and fatigue. When DKA progresses to its end stages, the person will go into a coma. About 31% of cases that include symptoms of fruity breath turn out to be DKA.

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The second is Hyperglycemic Hyperosmolar Syndrome (Hhs). This is a serious condition that will manifest in a person living with Type 2 diabetes. It is characterized by fatigue, nausea, vomiting, frequent urination, and a fruity odor on the breath. It is not a common condition but is dangerous due to its rapid onset. If a person displays the symptoms of HHS, emergency medical care is necessary to avoid lasting complications or even death.

About 34% of cases that include signs of fruity breath turn out to be Hhs. The remaining cause of a fruity odor on the breath is liver failure. This is the case in about 34% of instances where people report fruity-smelling breath as one of their symptoms.

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17. High fever

A high fever is an indication that something is wrong in the body. One of the things that it could indicate is high blood sugar. Or, if you have high blood sugar, a fever can exacerbate it.

A high fever may be a sign of high blood sugar, as it shows a weakness in the immune system. The immune system is designed to help the body fight off an infection or illness. A healthy immune system prevents you from getting sick. If you have high blood sugar, your body’s immune system is compromised. High blood sugar and diabetes are autoimmune disorders. The body is attacking itself. No germ causes the blood sugar to rise. It’s a malfunction in the body that prevents it from being metabolized.

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The immune system becomes so preoccupied with trying to deal with the high levels of sugar in the blood that an opportunistic infection can take hold. Bacteria and other germs like viruses sneak in and cause infections that result in high fevers.

Fever and dehydration cause a vicious cycle. When you have a fever, you dehydrate. Dehydration can lead to the worsening of a fever. If your blood sugar is high, you get very thirsty. As much as you drink, you lose because it’s eliminated from the body as urine. The possibility of dehydration is very real. A urinary tract is a place where people with high blood sugar and diabetes often experience infections. Other common places opportunistic infections may take hold are the vagina, gums, feet, and skin.

Any fever of 101ºF is an indication of a severe problem. If you have a family history of high blood sugar levels, it’s worthwhile to be tested. A doctor treating an extreme fever should check your blood sugar as a matter of routine.

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18. Stroke

There is a causal relationship between high blood sugar levels and stroke. People with high blood sugar conditions such as diabetes and pre-diabetes are 2-4 times more likely to suffer a stroke. High blood sugar levels indicate that the body is unable to metabolize or break these sugars down. A hormone called insulin allows glucose to enter the cells. Insulin comes from the pancreas. When there is a problem with insulin production, it leads to problems with blood sugar levels. The glucose cannot enter the cells and give them energy. Instead, it remains in the blood.

As time passes, this accumulation of sugar in the blood can damage the blood vessels. These are the veins and arteries that the blood travels through during circulation. Fatty deposits and clots can form in the blood vessels due to the elevated blood sugar levels. When the fatty deposits become big enough, they can block a vein or artery. This deprives the brain of oxygen which results in a stroke. Alternatively, a clot may dislodge from the wall of a vein or artery and pass through the brain.

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The consequences of a stroke can be paralysis or loss of specific brain and body functions. This can be temporary. In a lot of cases, however, it becomes permanent. This can have a profound effect on the sufferer’s quality of life.

If your doctor identifies that you are at risk of a stroke, it’s a good idea to test your blood sugar. It can be contributing to the rising chance of having a stroke. Risk factors for a stroke include high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and obesity in addition to high blood glucose levels. Other risk factors that can cause a stroke are smoking, drinking, and an unhealthy diet and lifestyle.

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19. Heart disease

High blood sugar levels can cause heart disease. If you start to experience the symptoms of heart disease, the chances of your blood sugar levels being elevated are high. Different symptoms tell you there’s something wrong with your heart. One of them is pain and discomfort in the chest. It means the heart is having problems with blood supply. Other symptoms of heart disease include nausea, stomach aches, heartburn, and indigestion.

Dizziness and lightheartedness are also indicators that your heart is struggling to function properly. A person with heart disease is permanently fatigued and struggles to gather enough energy even to do the simple things in life. They feel breathless because the heart is unable to supply enough oxygenated blood to the lungs.

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High blood sugar levels with other risky behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and unhealthy diet cause blockages in the veins and arteries that lead to and from the heart. When one of them becomes completely blocked, or it contracts, the heart responds by spasming. This is called a heart attack. Even if you don’t have a heart attack, heart disease damages the heart and causes it to malfunction. The heart works harder than normal trying to sustain life and keep the body functioning. This causes the heart to wear out more quickly.

If you have a heart attack, it will spike your blood sugar levels immediately. This is the stress response to the cardiac event. You can improve the health of your heart if you take steps to do so. Changing your habits, especially your eating and exercising habits, can ease a lot of the strain on your heart. A healthy diet lowers the blood sugar levels in your body. If you’re diagnosed with heart disease, you need to take it as seriously as the proverbial heart attack. Otherwise, it may lead to the literal heart attack, which could be avoided.

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20. High blood pressure

Elevated blood sugar levels can lead to elevated blood pressure levels (hypertension). High blood pressure is caused by the irregular contraction of the blood vessels which damages them over time. When your blood sugar is too high, it changes the way your blood vessels behave. It makes them contract more than they should. This narrowing of the blood vessels causes the blood pressure to rise. The heightened pressure on the walls of the blood vessels can cause permanent damage.

It affects the elasticity of the blood vessels. They can become so damaged that they no longer work properly. They could even start to leak, which affects the entire circulatory system. When the blood vessels are damaged, it is hard for them to recover unless the cause of the damage is eliminated. High blood pressure is treated with medication. Patients are, however, expected to change their lifestyles as well. Those who smoke and drink are advised to stop. Healthy exercise patterns are encouraged.

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Another major contributor to high blood pressure is stress. Stress management techniques are advised so that patients can learn to manage stress without letting affect them physically. One of the things a doctor will look at is the blood sugar levels of someone with high blood pressure. Eliminating high blood sugar levels can help to reduce blood pressure.

Left untreated, blood pressure can lead to heart attacks or strokes. It can have fatal consequences if not addressed. Keeping your blood sugar levels under control can go a long way toward keeping your blood pressure levels within the normal range. It also prevents a diagnosis of diabetes which is a lifelong condition that needs ongoing management and treatment.