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Understanding Hyperglycaemia: Causes, Symptoms, and Emergency Response

What is Hyperglycaemia?

Hyperglycaemia is the medical term for high blood glucose levels. According to the World Health Organisation, hyperglycaemia is defined as having blood glucose levels greater than 7.0 millimoles per litre when fasting, or greater than 11.0 millimoles per litre two hours after meals.

Who is Affected?

Hyperglycaemia most commonly affects people with diabetes, but it can also occur in individuals without the condition. Various factors other than eating can cause hyperglycaemia, including:

  • Missing doses of medication
  • Stress
  • Infections or illness
  • Overtreating hypoglycaemia

Why is Hyperglycaemia Serious?

Hyperglycaemia is classified as a medical emergency due to the potential for serious complications if not treated promptly. These complications include diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state (HHS), which will be discussed in more detail later.

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of hyperglycaemia include:

  • Rapid but weak pulse
  • Dry, warm skin
  • Rapid breathing
  • Extreme thirst

Unlike hypoglycaemia, hyperglycaemia has a gradual onset of symptoms, which is a key way to differentiate between the two. Additionally, a person with hyperglycaemia may have sweet-smelling breath due to excess sugar in their system.

First Aid Response

First Aid for hyperglycaemia is limited. However, if you suspect someone is experiencing hyperglycaemia, you should call 999 immediately for emergency medical assistance.