Hyperglycemia is a medical term used for high level of blood sugar in the body. Hyperglycemia is also referred as diabetes. It is a metabolic disorder prevalent at any age and in any individual. Hyperglycemia in neonates and infants mostly occurs if the child is prematurely born or is critically ill. Most infants suffering from hyperglycemia are found in intensive care unit. It occurs due to insufficient production of insulin from pancreas.
Hyperglycemia in neonates may not be apparent initially soon after birth. Infants with hyperglycemia are usually small for gestational age.They may present with signs of dehydration, frequent urination, presence of glucose in urine. Such infants may fail to thrive or may have malformation of organs.
If the condition remains undiagnosed or untreated, it can lead to various complications such as nerve damage, deafness, kidney damage etc. Hyperglycemia in infants is effectively treated with insulin therapy. With proper treatment remission occurs within one year. Prognosis after treatment is good.
Causes Of Hyperglycemia In Infants
The etiology of hyperglycemia is insufficient secretion of insulin from the pancreas. Pancreas is a gland which lies just behind the stomach in the abdominal cavity.The hormone insulin regulates the level of sugar in the blood. Hyperglycemia in infants is uncommon and the most common causes are as follows:
- Gestational diabetes in mother during pregnancy is the foremost cause of hyperglycemia in infants. The baby gets all the blood supply and nutrient from mother’s blood through the umbilical cord. Hence high amount of sugar in blood in mother leads to high blood sugar in the baby.
- Premature baby: Premature babies usually require intravenous glucose as a form of nutrient. This increases level of glucose in the blood because the body is not able to produce sufficient amount of insulin.
- Stress: When the body is under severe stress as in case of serious illness, it releases certain hormones called epinephrine and nor-epinephrine. Both these are prone to increase blood sugar level. It usually occurs when the infant is critically ill.
- Use of glucocorticoid therapy: Glucocorticoid is often used in infants who have low birth weight. Glucocorticoid is known to increase level of sugar in blood.
- Liver problem and infections can cause severe stress on the whole body system of the baby. This may cause low insulin output leading to increased amount of sugar in blood.
Symptoms And Diagnosis Of Hyperglycemia In Newborns
Usually an infant suffering from hyperglycemia does no present with any symptoms. However, sometimes babies with high amount of sugar in blood may produce excess amount of urine and at frequent interval. As the baby has increased output of urine, he has increased risk of dehydration. There may be increased sweating too. Due to dehydration the baby craves for water and liquids.
Diagnosis: If the pediatrician suspects the baby with hyperglycemia, he will undertake following task:
- Complete medical history and clinical examination of the baby.
- He will recommend certain blood tests that will help to know the level of sugar in blood. The test will help to detect whether the baby has hyperglycemia.
Treatment For Hyperglycemia In Infants
Treatment of hyperglycemia in infants is administration of insulin in required amount. Insulin is a hormone secreted by pancreas. When there is deficient production, it has to be supplied to the body from outside source. Insulin helps to cells to uptake the glucose circulating in blood. Without insulin in proper amount, the cells cannot take glucose as an energy source. Insulin thus allows to taper raised glucose level in blood.
Insulin is also known to promote growth and intake of calories. Both are necessary as the infant born with hyperglycemia is mostly low birth weight. If the infant needs intravenous glucose drip to supply nutrient and energy, insulin may be needed to counteract the raised level.