Blood sugar is regulated through insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas. Insulin helps tissues in your body take in glucose (sugar) to use for energy. Another important organ for blood sugar regulation is your liver. Excess glucose is stored in the liver in the form of glycogen. When blood sugar drops, your liver breaks down glycogen into glucose, and releases it into your bloodstream. This helps your body to maintain relatively stable blood sugar levels throughout the day.
In people with dysglycemia, this system doesn’t work correctly. That leads to unstable blood sugar throughout the day, which can lead to various symptoms. Read on to learn more about the symptoms of dysglycemia, underlying causes, and how to manage this condition.
The symptoms of dysglycemia vary depending on whether your blood glucose is too high or too low.
Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar)
Hyperglycemia only causes symptoms when your blood sugar is significantly elevated. The symptoms of high blood sugar tend to develop gradually and get worse the longer your blood sugar remains elevated. Persistent high blood sugar levels damage organs and tissues.
Symptoms of hyperglycemia may include:
- increased thirst
- frequent urination
- blurred vison
- dry mouth
- nausea and vomiting
When high blood sugar goes untreated, it can lead to coma.
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
Hypoglycemia can cause the following symptoms:
- heart palpitations
When blood sugar levels are severely low, it can cause you to slur your words. It can also cause seizures and loss of consciousness.
What causes dysglycemia? | Causes
Dysglycemia can be caused by various conditions, including:
- type 1 diabetes
- type 2 diabetes
- gestational diabetes
- conditions that affect your liver or kidneys
- endocrine disorders, such as adrenal gland deficiency
- eating disorders, such as anorexia
Other possible causes of abnormal blood sugar levels include:
- certain medications, including diabetes medications when not used properly
- tumors that produce excess insulin
If you’ve been experiencing symptoms that may indicate problems with your blood sugar levels, see your doctor right away to have your blood sugar levels tested.
Your doctor will ask about your medical history, including any symptoms that you’ve been experiencing.
There are different types of blood tests your doctor may order to check for dysglycemia. These tests are also used to help diagnose different types of diabetes, including prediabetes. They include:
- A1C test. The A1C test measures your average blood sugar for the past 2 or 3 months. A result below 5.7 percent is normal. Results with a higher percentage may indicate prediabetes or diabetes.
- Fasting plasma glucose (FPG) test. This is a fasting blood glucose test. You will have to avoid consuming any food or drink, other than water, for at least eight hours before the test. A result of 99 mg/dL or lower is normal. A result above 100 mg/dL may indicate prediabetes or diabetes.
- Oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT). This test can help your doctor see how well your body is able to manage sugar. Your blood sugar levels are checked before and two hours after you drink a special drink containing a set amount of sugar. A result of less than 140 mg/dL after two hours is normal. Any result above 200 may indicate prediabetes or diabetes.
Your doctor may also request a urine sample to check for sugar or other substances known as ketones.
Imaging tests may be needed to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, such a CT scan, ultrasound, or MRI, which can help diagnose conditions affecting the liver, kidneys, or other organs.
The treatment for dysglycemia depends on what is causing the fluctuations in your blood sugar.
Immediate treatment is required when blood sugar is significantly high or low. Immediate treatments may include:
- Fast-acting carbohydrates. Consuming fast-acting carbohydrates, such as fruit juice, candy, or glucose tablets, can help raise low blood sugar. A glucagon injection may be used if symptoms are severe.
- Fluid replacement. Fluids, given either orally or through an IV, can help dilute the excess sugar in your blood and replace fluid you’ve lost through frequent urination.
- Electrolyte replacement. Decreased insulin can lower the level of electrolytes in your blood. Your body needs these minerals to keep your heart, muscles, and other tissues functioning properly.
- Insulin. When your blood sugar is too high, you may be treated with insulin therapy, usually along with fluids and electrolytes, to help restore blood sugar to a normal range.
Changes to medication
If you have diabetes, taking oral and injectable diabetes medication and insulin as directed by your doctor can help you regulate your blood sugar. Your doctor may suggest changes to your dosage and the time you take your medication to better help regulate your blood sugar.
Along with taking your medication as directed, certain lifestyle changes can help you maintain your blood sugar levels. Regular exercise is an important part of treating blood sugar instability. Physical activity helps your cells become more sensitive to insulin, making insulin work more efficiently while also helping your cells manage glucose levels within the body. Exercising regularly can lower your blood sugar and A1C.
Your diet plays an important role in your blood sugar levels and may help you avoid developing diabetes or other complications that can be caused by uncontrolled blood sugar. Eat a diet rich in vegetables, fiber, and protein. Avoid high-sugar or processed foods. You should also avoid simple carbohydrates, like white breads, that have a high glycemic index. Instead, choose complex carbohydrates made from whole grains. These carbohydrates do not have as much of an effect on blood sugar as simple carbohydrates.
Consider keeping nuts or slices of low-fat cheese on hand for easy, nutritious snacks. Just remember that nuts have a lot of calories, so be mindful of serving size. You should also choose a low-salt or salt-free nut to reduce your sodium intake.
Dysglycemia is a broad term that can lead to a range of symptoms. It can also be caused by various underlying conditions. Let your doctor know if you experience symptoms of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, especially if you frequently experience them. A doctor can help identify the underlying cause and work with you on ways to manager your blood sugar.