Blood Sugar Levels: Hyperglycemia and Hypoglycemia Defined

Hyperglycemia. Hypoglycemia. What’s the difference? What’s the significance?

Hyper, derived from Greek, means above, or in excess, while glyc denotes sweet, and mia means in the blood. Together, they mean too much glucose in the blood. Hypo, also Greek, means less than normal or deficient, in this case too little glucose in the blood.

Both conditions are commonly associated with diabetes but can be an issue for patients with a wide range of illnesses. Maintaining appropriate blood glucose levels is important for everyone—particularly hospitalized patients. The likelihood that hospitalized patients with diabetes will experience complications is greater than patients without diabetes because their ability to modulate blood glucose through appropriate insulin-glucose feedback mechanisms is already impaired. Serious illnesses creates additional stress. Moreover, daily blood glucose maintenance programs are often altered when people with diabetes are hospitalized, compounding the problem.

Normal fasting glucose levels range from 80 to 110 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Levels above 126 mg/dL are considered hyperglycemic. Generally speaking, blood glucose readings below 70 mg/dL may be considered hypoglycemic, but definitions vary within healthcare organizations and based on individual patients.

Whatever the cause, the consequences of prolonged periods of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia can be extremely serious and negatively impact numerous health issues, predominantly for hospitalized patients.

We’ll explore the consequences of abnormal blood glucose levels in greater detail in upcoming blogs.