HIGH BLOOD GLUCOSE (HYPER) AND TYPE 1 DIABETES
If you have Type 1 diabetes, you will often develop high blood glucose levels. Managing your Type 1 diabetes is a lot to do with developing problem solving skills and learning to use them. Remember that if your body is producing its own insulin, it alters the amount all the time (minute by minute). When you have Type 1 diabetes you have to do this consciously by using your knowledge and making sensible choices.
- Hyperglycaemia happens from time to time to all people who have diabetes.
- Hyperglycaemia is a major cause of many of the complications that happen to people who have diabetes. For this reason, it’s important to know what hyperglycaemia is, what its symptoms are, and how to treat it.
- Untreated hyperglycaemia diabetes can lead to a life threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).
Your diabetes nurse educator can help you learn the skills you need to do this. Some people prefer to get guidance on any of the choices they make. Everyone is different. If you are making choices you haven’t previously put into practice, get advice and support from your diabetes team before and while you make the changes.
The effects of high blood glucose levels are probably what first led you to visit the doctor when your diabetes was diagnosed.
Normally the human body keeps its blood glucose level very stable (between 4mmol/L – 7.5mmol/L). The body has various systems (regulated by hormones such as insulin and glucagon) for keeping the blood glucose level in this range. This doesn’t happen if you have Type 1 diabetes.
Symptoms of high blood glucose levels
- Feeling thirsty
- Passing a lot of urine (you may need to get up often during the night)
- Feeling very tired
Treatment for high blood glucose levels
Try to work out why your glucose level is high. If it is high because you have eaten extra food, you can take extra short acting insulin. Contact your specialist diabetes team to learn how to do this.
Drinking extra unsweetened fluids will help your blood glucose to settle. It is not a good idea to exercise when your blood glucose is higher than 17mmol/L. If you are feeling unwell, or if there is no reason why your blood glucose is high, or if a high blood glucose of more than 17mmol/L is not settling, you should test your urine for ketones.
If you are testing your own blood glucose level regularly you will quickly see if your glucose is above the healthy range (4mmol/L – 8mmol/L).
It’s good to aim to have your blood glucose levels in this healthy range for 70 – 80% of the time. However, everyone goes high sometimes. A high of up to 16 – 20mmol/L is usually manageable as long as it settles back down again within a day. If not, test for ketones and get some medical help.
If your blood glucose is high and you are showing ketones you must act quickly in order to avoid developing DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis).
Treatment for high blood glucose:
- Take extra short acting insulin as advised by your specialist diabetes team
- Drink extra unsweetened fluids
- Test your blood glucose every two hours
- Don’t exercise if your blood glucose is more than 17mmol/L
- Test for ketones if your blood glucose is not coming down, if it is extremely high, or if you feel unwell. If testing for ketones test every two hours until they come down
- Get immediate advice and help if your urine ketone levels are moderate or more
What is DKA and why does it happen?
Ketoacidosis develops when your body doesn’t have enough insulin. Without insulin, your body can’t use glucose for fuel. So, in response to this your body starts to break down fats to use for energy. We all break down fats for energy sometimes. Problems arise, however, if we break down a large amount of fat at any one time.
When your body breaks down fats, waste products called ketones are produced. Ketones are acids. Nail polish remover (acetone) is a type of ketone. Ketones can cause a great deal of damage in your body if there are high levels of them in your blood. Imagine having nail polish remover in your bloodstream!