Consequences of High Blood Sugar in Diabetics

Hyperglycemia, also known as high blood sugar, results when the body has excessive amounts of insulin or when the body can’t properly utilize insulin. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), hyperglycemia is a major cause of diabetes complications. Consistent monitoring of your blood sugar levels, a healthy dietary lifestyle and regular physical activity may help prevent hyperglycemia.

Gum Disease or Tooth Loss

When blood sugar levels remain high, bacterial growth can lead to inflamed or reddened gums. According to The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, such symptoms may indicate a gum disease called periodontitis, a potential complication of diabetes. When periodontitis worsens, it may result in tooth loss. If you are age 45 or older and/or smoke in addition to having diabetes, your risk for gum disease is further increased. Adhering to your diabetes-friendly dietary plan and taking appropriate measures to manage your blood glucose levels reguarly are the most valuable ways of preventing tooth loss and gum disease. Other measures that may help include flossing your teeth thoroughly on a daily basis, brushing your teeth after eating and seeing your dentist semi-annually. According to the Mayo Clinic, a water pick (electronic device that uses water to clean teeth) may help reduce gum disease and wash away blood, when necessary. If you observe pain, bleeding or inflammation in your gums, seek guidance from your dentist or doctor, to determine whether your symptoms indicate gum disease.

Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease, also known as heart disease, refers to numerous conditions that affect that heart or arteries. According to the Mayo Clinic, untreated or long-term high blood sugar can lead to cardiovascular conditions such as coronary artery disease, heart attack and stroke, for people with diabetes. To prevent such conditions, make efforts to monitor and manage your blood sugar levels consistently and adhere to a healthy, diabetes-friendly diet. Regular physical activity can help keep blood sugar levels in balance, but avoid exercise during hyperglycemic episodes, as in some cases, physical activity can push glucose levels even higher.

Diabetic Ketoacidosis

Diabetic ketoacidosis is a serious potential complication of diabetes that happens when ketones, toxic substances, are released into the body in response to high blood sugar levels. It can lead to dehydration and loss of electrolytes (vital salts in the body), as the body attempts to flush ketones from the body through excess urine. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, diabetic ketoacidosis is often the first symptom that leads a person to seek medical testing and diagnosis for type 1 diabetes. It may also happen when someone with type 1 diabetes experiences increased insulin needs or develops infections, trauma, heart attack or requires surgery. If left untreated, ketoacidosis may lead to a diabetic coma or death. The ADA recommends immediate medical attention if you experience symptoms of ketoacidosis, which may include shortness of breath, sweet or fruit-smelling breath, nausea, vomiting or dry mouth.

About this Author

August J. McLaughlin is a certified nutritionist and health writer with more than nine years of professional experience. Her work has been featured in various magazines such as “Healthy Aging,” “CitySmart,” “IAmThatGirl” and “ULM.” She holds specializations in eating disorders, healthy weight management and sports nutrition. She is currently completing her second cookbook and Weight Limit – a series of body image/nutrition-related PSAs.