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Hyperglycemia in Children: Causes, Signs & Symptoms

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Hyperglycemia can tremendously affect the future health of children worldwide. Read this lesson to learn what hyperglycemia is, its signs and symptoms, and major causes of this condition.

Childhood Hyperglycemia

An excess of circulating sugar in the blood is known as hyperglycemia. Sugar, or glucose, comes from our diet, and the glucose ingested by food or drink is normally broken down by the insulin hormone to be used as energy. Josh, a 7-year-old boy anxious to start the school year, has not felt like himself for quite a few weeks. His mom is concerned and schedules an appointment with the family doctor.

Signs of Hyperglycemia

Other than feeling fatigued and unusually thirsty, Josh and his mother have no other complaints. The doctor completes a physical exam finding Josh to be quite healthy despite the symptoms. Doctor Smith decides to ask a few questions to determine whether or not Josh may be presenting with hyperglycemia. Doctor Smith asks Josh and his mom if he is experiencing any of the other following symptoms of hyperglycemia:

  • Increased urination
  • Headaches
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Stomach pains

Doctor Smith suspects that Josh may be hyperglycemic, placing him at high risk for diabetes. Josh was able to explain that his head had been hurting, and his mom confirmed an increase in urination. Doctor Smith was concerned that Josh might be dealing with:

  • Hyperglycemia- a condition resulting in high blood sugar levels, usually the result of poor diet and exercise routines, or
  • Diabetes Type I- a disease in which the body's immune system attacks the pancreas, an organ that produces and secretes insulin
  • Diabetes Type II- also described as varying degrees of insulin resistance, making it difficult to transport glucose into cells to be used as energy

Josh was sent for bloodwork to assess the level of glucose in his blood.

Determining Cause

The bloodwork confirmed that while Josh was not yet diabetic, his blood sugar levels were indeed higher than the normal range for his age. Upon hearing the news, Josh's mom was surprised to find out that he was hyperglycemic. The doctor explained that the two main factors of hyperglycemia that could lead to diabetes included diet and exercise. If Josh was already diagnosed with diabetes, his medication may be placing him at risk for hyperglycemia and would require further investigation.

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