Hypoglycemia vs. Hyperglycemia

Whether it’s low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), or high blood sugar (hyperglycemia), both are bad for your overall health, and either may cause major complications if left untreated. Generally speaking, these conditions are common among diabetics. However, they may also affect non-diabetics as well. What are the differences between hypoglycemia vs. hyperglycemia, and are there any early warning signs or symptoms when you have these conditions?

A Comparison Chart of Hypoglycemia vs. Hyperglycemia





Hypoglycemia is a frequent event that can harm the quality of life of people with diabetes and their families. It is defined when your blood sugar (glucose) levels below 4 mmol/L, with or without symptoms.

Hyperglycemia is blood sugar (glucose) levels that exceed 7 mmol/L while fasting or before a meal, or above 10 mmol/L two hours after a meal. When the amount of insulin in the blood is insufficient, hyperglycemia can occur, and because of a lack of insulin, the glucose circulating in the blood can’t enter the cells, and it accumulates in the blood and thus raises a person’s sugar level.


Many hypoglycaemia episodes are caused by:

  • A lack of carbohydrates, a skipped or delayed meal, a meal that contains fewer carbohydrates than required or an error in the count of the carbohydrates consumed
  • Alcohol consumed without food
  • Over-exercising, either in intensity or duration
  • Psychological or physical stress
  • An error in the dose or schedule of insulin or other diabetes drugs

The primary causes of hyperglycemia include:

  • Psychological stress, such as bereavement, a new job, or relocation
  • Physical stress, such as surgery, or illness
  • Certain drugs such as cortisone
  • Diets abnormally high in carbohydrates
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Insufficient anti-diabetic medication or insulin dosage error or a missed dose


Symptoms of hypoglycemia can vary from person to person:

  • Trouble performing routine tasks
  • Decreased coordination
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sweating
  • Rapid pulse
  • Shakiness, dizziness, weakness
  • Sweating
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision

Some people might not notice hyperglycemia symptoms. However, high blood sugar may include:

  • Increased fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Headaches
  • Blurry vision
  • Irritability
  • Intense thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Involuntary weight loss
  • Excessive hunger


If you ignore the symptoms of hypoglycemia too long, you maylose consciousness. That's because your brain needs glucose to function properly.

You should recognize the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia early because untreated hypoglycemia can lead to:

  • Severe confusion and disorientation
  • Unconsciousness
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Death

Untreated hyperglycemia can cause long-term complications, including:

  • Diabetic Retinopathy, or damage to the blood vessels of the retina, potentially leading to blindness
  • Cataracts, or clouding of the normally clear lens of your eyes
  • Problems in your feet
  • Tooth and gum infections
  • Bone and joint problems
  • Skin problems
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy)
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Kidney damage or kidney failure

Hypoglycemia vs. Hyperglycemia: How to Beat Them?

1. Treatments of Hypoglycemia

If you have low blood sugar

Then eat or drink any of the following items:

  • Four to six pieces of hard candy (not sugar-free)
  • 1 tablespoon honey placed under your tongue so it is absorbed into your bloodstream faster
  • 4 oz fruit juice
  • 8 oz skim milk
  • 4 oz soft drink (not sugar-free)
  • Three to four glucose tablets
  • One tube of glucose gel

After you've consumed an item with sugar in it, check your blood sugar again in 15 minutes. If your blood sugar is still less than 7 mmol/L, eat another serving of one of the items listed above, and repeat these steps until your sugar becomes normal.

When you pass out

Hypoglycemia can make you pass out. If it does, you'll need someone to give you a glycogen injection. Glycogen is a prescription medicine that raises blood sugar, and some people may need it if they have severe hypoglycemia. What’s important is that your family members and close friends should know how to give the injection when you pass out. If you see someone having a severe hypoglycaemia reaction, call an ambulance, or take them to the nearest hospital for treatment.

2. Treatments of Hyperglycemia

Home treatments

Your health care provider might suggest the following treatments:

  • Exercise is often an effective way to control your blood sugar, but don't exercise if ketones are present in your urine. It may raise your blood sugar even higher.
  • Take medication as directed by your health care provider.
  • A dietary plan helps you to eat less and avoid sugary products.
  • Monitor your blood sugar as directed by your health care provider, and check it more often if you're ill or if there are concerns about severe hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia.
  • Adjust insulin doses to control hyperglycemia. Adjustments to your insulin or a supplement of short-acting insulin may be used to help temporarily correct a high blood sugar level.

Emergency treatments

If you have signs and symptoms of severe hyperglycemia, you may be treated in the emergency room. Emergency treatment usually includes:

  • Fluid replacement either orally or intravenously until you're re-hydrated. The fluids will replace those you've lost through excessive urination, and help dilute the excess sugar in your blood.
  • Electrolyte replacement through your veins to help keep your heart, muscles, and nerve cells functioning normally.
  • Insulin therapy intravenously, to reverse the processes that cause ketones to build up in your blood.  

As your blood sugar returns to normal, your physician will consider what may have triggered the severe hyperglycemia, and depending on the circumstances, you may need additional treatment.

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