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Hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia: What’s the difference?

Hyperglycemia is high blood sugar 10 mmol/l or higher, while hypoglycemia is low blood sugar 4.0 mmol/l or lower. Because both can cause major health problems for people with diabetes, it’s important to keep blood sugar within a healthy range throughout the day 4 – 8 mmol/l.

People with type 2 diabetes Hypoglycemia is a condition in which your blood sugar (glucose) level is lower than normal. Glucose is your body’s main energy source.


Signs and symptoms hypoglycemia

If blood sugar levels become too low, signs and symptoms can include:

  • An irregular or fast heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Shakiness
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating
  • Hunger
  • Irritability
  • Tingling or numbness of the lips, tongue or cheek

How does hypoglycemia occur?

  • Eat less carbs
  • Skip a meal
  • Overdose insuline or tablets
  • Too many hours without food
  • Increase level of physical activity (for example workouts, cleaning, gardening or walking)
  • Hot weather or sauna
  • Use of alcohol beverage
  • Irregular lifestyle
  • Irregular work schedule with nightshifts

Hypoglycemia unawareness

Over time repeated episodes of hypoglycemia can lead to hypoglycemia unawareness. The body and brain no longer produce signs and symptoms that warn you of a low blood sugar, such as shakiness or irregular heartbeats. When this happens, the risk of severe, life-threatening hypoglycemia increases.
If you have diabetes type 2 and recurring episodes of hypoglycemia and hypoglycemia unawareness always warn your doctor or nurse to modify your treatment.

Signs and symptoms hyperglycemia

Hyperglycemia doesn’t cause symptoms until your glucose values are significantly high, usually above 10 to 11.1 mmol/l. Symptoms of hyperglycemia develop slowly over several days or weeks, sometimes months. The longer blood sugar levels stay high, the more serious the symptoms become. However, some people who have had type 2 diabetes for a long time may not show any symptoms despite elevated blood sugar levels.

  • Frequent urination 
  • Increased thirst
  • Blurred vision
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Dry mouth
  • Weakness

How does hyperglycemia occur?

  • Eating and drinking too many carbs and/or sugary products
  • Being inactive
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not using the right amount of medication
  • Not injecting insuline properly
  • Having illness or infection
  • Using medication such as steroids (prednison for example)
  • Experience emotional stress


  • Follow your diabetes meal plan. If you take insulin, oral diabetes medication or even no medication at all, it’s important that you be consistent about the amount and timing of your meals and snacks. The food you eat must be in balance with the insulin working in your body.

  • Monitor your blood sugar. Depending on your treatment plan, you may check and record your blood sugar level several times a week or several times a day. Careful monitoring is the only way to make sure that your blood sugar level remains within your target range. Note when your glucose readings are above or below your goal range.

  • Take your medication as prescribed by your doctor.

  • Adjust your medication if you change your physical activity. The adjustment depends on the blood sugar test results and on the type and length of the activity.

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