written by: Ravneet Kaur
• edited by: Diana Cooper
• updated: 2/28/2011
Blood sugar levels over 500 mg/dl is a medical emergency that can have serious medical implications, even causing death. Learn more about the prevention and treatment of high blood sugar levels, known as hyperglycemia.
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Risks of Blood Sugar Levels Over 500
Having blood sugar at optimal levels is important for health and survival, for glucose is the body’s main energy source. In a healthy human body, when blood sugar rises after a meal, the pancreas releases insulin to help the cells use the glucose for energy. In a diabetic, either the pancreas does not secrete insulin or the body is unable to utilize it effectively, causing blood sugar to build up in the bloodstream to levels that are higher than normal, a condition called hyperglycemia.
If left untreated, blood sugar levels can rise dangerously high,and blood sugar levels over 500 mg/dl can be life-threatening. If blood glucose levels are brought under control, it can lead to serious health complications and even cause birth defects in case of pregnant women.
Blood sugar levels over 500 mg/dl can lead to:
Damage to the retina, the leading cause of blindness in diabetics.
Damage to the nerves, particularly in the legs and feet. In most of the diabetic cases, diabetic neuropathy leads to foot and leg amputations.
Damage to the kidneys. This state, known as diabetic nephropathy, is the leading cause of kidney failure.
High blood pressure and hypertension.
Atherosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries that leads to reduced blood flow to vital organs, such as heart and brain. This can have severe complications in the form of a heart attack or stroke. A heart attack can occur if the blood flow to the coronary arteries decreases and a stroke can be the result of reduced blood flow to the brain. It can even lead to decreased circulation in the arms and legs.
Diabetic cardiomyopathy, the inflammation of heart's muscle tissue.
Damage to the nerves in the autonomic nervous system, leading to gastroparesis, the paralysis of the stomach. In some cases, chronic diarrhea can also result.
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Dangers of Blood Sugar Levels Over 500 mg/dl
People with blood sugar levels over 500 mg/dl are usually those who have not yet been diagnosed yet and are not treating the disease. In all cases, blood sugar levels that high are a medical emergency. While most complications will only occur after prolonged bouts of hyperglycemia, there are two conditions that can cause death very quickly if the blood sugar levels are not brought under control.
Diabetic ketoacidosis occurs when there is no insulin being produced, as is the case with all type 1 diabetics and some type 2 diabetics. Glucose accumulates in the bloodstream and the body begins to burn up stored fat for energy instead. Ketones, a by-product of this process, also circulate in the blood. Excess ketones together with high levels of blood sugar make the blood extremely acidic. If not treated quickly, the high levels of acidity can cause irreversible damage to tissues and cells in the body, eventually leading to death.
Most type 2 diabetics do produce insulin and rarely experience diabetic ketoacidosis, but with blood sugar levels over 500 mg/dl, they are prone to a condition called hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HHS). This usually occurs when the person with the high blood sugar levels also suffer from conditions that cause diarrhea or vomiting, or elderly patients who are already prone to dehydration. Because the body is sapping the body of its fluids in an effort to get rid of the excess sugar in the bloodstream, any condition that exacerbates it can quickly cause HHS.
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If the blood sugar monitor shows a reading of 500 mg/dl, it is an emergency and the patient must immediately see a doctor who can administer high levels of rapid-acting insulin to bring down the levels down as quickly as possible. Such extreme conditions must be closely and constantly monitored so as to regulate them and bring sugar levels under control.
Patients experiencing blood sugars over 500 mg/dl must drink plenty of water, check their urine for ketones if they take insulin and consult their doctor and follow precautions to keep the level down.