Hyperglycemia vs. Hypoglycemia

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson goes over two polar opposites that can both have the same end result if not taken care of: death. They are hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Find out their definitions, causes, and symptoms.

Sugar

What do salt and sugar have in common? If you said that they can both be white in color, you are correct. If you said they look like crystal cubes, you are also correct. But do you know what else they have in common? They can be deadly if they are found in too high or too low of an amount in our body. This lesson doesn't go into how that's the case with salt. But it will go over some of the causes and potential consequences of hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, which are the conditions that result from too much or too little sugar.

Hyperglycemia

Hyperglycemia refers to high blood sugar. This is easy to remember if you can recall each word part on its own:

  • 'Hyper-' refers to an abnormally excessive amount of something
  • '-glyc-' refers to something sweet or, more technically, to glucose (a simple sugar)
  • '-emia' refers to a condition of the blood.

So, quite literally, hyperglycemia is a condition of the blood characterized by abnormally excessive amounts of blood sugar.

What can possibly lead to hyperglycemia? There are numerous causes, and they include:

  • Endocrine disorders, like diabetes mellitus, the most famous cause of high blood sugar. Diabetes mellitus is a condition where your body doesn't produce enough of a hormone called insulin, or doesn't respond well to it (insulin resistance). Insulin helps to lower blood sugar by getting the sugar to enter your body's cells.
  • Certain medications, like steroids or L-type calcium channel antagonists. In short, these latter drugs end up decreasing the release of insulin from the pancreas and/or increase insulin resistance.
  • Certain other treatments, like therapeutic hypothermia following heart or brain injuries.
  • Exposure to toxic amounts of vitamins like niacin, or vitamin B3.
  • The intake of inadequate amounts of minerals, like chromium.
  • Stress
  • Infections
  • Some types of cancer

Regardless of cause, hyperglycemia can lead to some common signs and symptoms, such as:

  • Increased thirst
  • Increase urination
  • Increased risk for infections
  • Fatigue
  • Worsening vision
  • Nerve and organ damage
  • In severe cases, coma and death.

Hypoglycemia

So now that you know hyperglycemia is bad for you, is the opposite extreme any better? That opposite extreme is called hypoglycemia, which means low blood sugar. That's because 'hypo-' refers to abnormally low amounts of something, as opposed to hyper.

Like hyperglycemia, the causes for hypoglycemia can be many. They include:

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