Hyperglycemia (High Blood Sugar)
What causes hyperglycemia?
A number of medical conditions can cause hyperglycemia, but the most common by far is diabetes mellitus. Diabetes affects over 8% of the total U.S. population. In diabetes, blood glucose levels rise either because there is an insufficient amount of insulin in the body or the body cannot use insulin well. Normally, the pancreas releases insulin after a meal so that the cells of the body can utilize glucose for fuel. This keeps blood glucose levels in the normal range.
Type 1 diabetes is responsible for about 5% of all cases of diabetes and results from damage to the insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes is far more common and is related to the body's inability to effectively use insulin. In addition to type 1 and type 2, gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that develops in pregnant women. Studies show that between 2% to 10% of all pregnant women get gestational diabetes.
Sometimes, hyperglycemia is not the result of diabetes. Other medical conditions that can cause hyperglycemia include:
- Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- Pancreatic cancer
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland)
- Cushing's syndrome (elevated blood cortisol level)
- Unusual tumors that secrete hormones, including glucagonoma, pheochromocytoma, or growth hormone-secreting tumors
- Severe stresses on the body, such as heart attack, stroke, trauma, or severe illnesses, can temporarily lead to hyperglycemia
- Taking certain medications, including prednisone, estrogens, beta-blockers, glucagon, oral contraceptives, phenothiazines, and others, can elevate blood glucose levels