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Is Elevated Glucose Dangerous?

A person checking her blood glucose levels.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 March 2014
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Elevated glucose is a cause for concern, and it definitely can become dangerous. Chronic levels of high glucose in the blood can lead to organ damage, loss of circulation in the extremities, and a number of severe medical complications. For this reason, when high glucose levels are identified, it is important to find out what is causing them, and to take constructive action to reduce the level of glucose in a patient's blood.

When someone has elevated glucose levels, she or he is said to have “hyperglycemia.” Hyperglycemia is one of the hallmark symptoms of diabetes, a serious medical condition. However, hyperglycemia can also be associated with other medical problems, so a high glucose level does not necessarily mean that someone has diabetes. Additional diagnostic information would be needed to confirm a diagnosis.

Signs of hyperglycemia include excessive thirst, a frequent need to urinate, and hunger. While a blood glucose level of 180 mg/dl or higher is considered “high,” symptoms often do not emerge until the level reaches a level substantially above this threshold. This makes it critical to seek treatment for symptoms as soon as they appear, because glucose levels may have been high for some time.

Elevated glucose can put people at higher risk of certain types of cancer. It can also appear in a complication of pregnancy known as gestational diabetes, and in the wake of severe trauma. Certain chronic conditions are also associated with hyperglycemia, and medications can also cause glucose levels to rise to a dangerous level.

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The risk of organ damage with elevated glucose is very real, especially if glucose levels stay high for an extended period of time. People with high glucose can take steps to manage it, ideally bringing it within safe levels and keeping it there to prevent damage. Sometimes steps as simple as treatment for an underlying condition or a change of medications can resolve the problem and restore the patient's glucose levels to normal.

Several different tests can be used to determine glucose levels. If high glucose levels are identified, a patient may be asked to repeat the test, or to take a slightly more rigorous test, to confirm that the levels are high and that the test was not a fluke. A number of things can influence glucose levels at any given time, and thus a single elevated glucose level result is not necessarily a cause for panic.

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Discuss this Article

amypollick
Post 2

@anon84811: I cannot speak for a doctor, of course, but a blood glucose level in the 20s and 30s, by my calculations, runs to levels (as measured in the U.S.) between 350 and 650. These levels are extremely dangerous for any period of time.

Gastroparesis does not make the diabetes worse. Diabetes causes the gastroparesis, and it is a classic complication of long-term, uncontrolled diabetes, or poorly controlled diabetes.

Some reversal may be possible, if your spouse is willing to make the life changes necessary for good health. She's got to get her diet under control, take her prescribed medication and do some exercise, if possible. She must get some control of her glucose levels in order to be healthier.

anon84811
Post 1

It is reported that high blood glucose over a long period of time can be damaging to a person's health. My spouse's blood glucose has been in the high 20's and low 30's for several weeks now. She also has gastroparesis which I understand makes diabetes "brittle."

After how long a period of time need we to become concerned?

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