Dysglycemia is a broad term that refers to any abnormalities in blood glucose levels that lead to disease. There are no absolute thresholds defined for the upper and lower limits of glucose in dysglycemia. Abnormally high, low or unstable glucose levels indicate a lack of control that can be attributed to a variety of causes. Debate over ideal levels continues among medical experts.
Although Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are two of the better-known types of dysglycemia, conditions such as gestational diabetes, prediabetic conditions and drug-related and genetically related abnormalities of blood sugar levels also represent types of dysglycemia. Symptoms related to both abnormally high and abnormally low glucose levels can occur with these problems, and they can be signs of a more systemic condition such as metabolic syndrome.
Hyperglycemia and Hypoglycemia
Hyperglycemia, or abnormally high blood sugar, includes symptoms such as unusual thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, confusion and a sweetish odor to the breath. Hypoglycemia, or abnormally low glucose levels, includes symptoms such as confusion, headache, dizziness, nausea, blurry vision, trembling and cold, clammy skin. These symptoms tend to be more pronounced in the elderly. If you have dysglycemic symptoms along with other symptoms such as dyslipidemia, high blood pressure and abdominal obesity, it might indicate that you have metabolic syndrome, which increases your risk of developing diabetes. The prevalence of metabolic syndrome in the United States in 2001 was between about 20 percent and 25 percent, according to the Canadian Diabetes Association Clinical Practice Guidelines Expert Committee.
High blood sugar is associated with long-term damage to your blood vessels, nerves and organs such as your heart, kidneys and eyes, which can lead to their eventual failure. Organ failure is a common occurrence in advanced diabetes. Diabetes is estimated to affect 8.3 percent of Americans, or 25.8 million people, according to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.
Blood sugar levels can be tested in different ways. Your doctor may order more than one type of test to get a better picture of your ability to control your blood sugar. Normal levels of fasting blood glucose range from 70 to 99 milligrams per deciliter. The oral glucose tolerance test monitors levels after you ingest a special glucose drink. Normal levels two hours after the drink should be less than 140 mg/dL.
- American Association for Clinical Chemistry: What does the test result mean?
- Canadian Diabetes Association: "Definition, Classification and Diagnosis of Diabetes and Other Dysglycemic Categories"
- Diabetic Care Services: "Effects of Diabetes on the Elderly"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Fast Facts on Diabetes"