Is blood glucose 30 really high or really low?

Did I mention my dad had a blood glucose level of 30 the other day? We were really freaked out because it was so HIGH – and the homecare nurse immediately came and administrated insulin. Since I knew high blood glucose could be a common side effect from the Afinitor cancer medication he’s taking, I logged into my Smart Patients community (while we were waiting for the nurse) to hear if anyone else had experienced such extremely high level and what had been done about it.

Blood Glucose Post

The answers I got was however not really what I expected…

Hopefully you have already heard back from the nurse. 30 is considered a critically low blood sugar. He needs glucose immediately. If he can swallow, please give him orange juice with sugar. If he can’t swallow, call EMS (emergency medical service) immediately. Low blood sugar is more dangerous for the brain that is why he is so lethargic

And many more with the same message, e.g.:

His blood sugar isn’t high. It is horribly low. You must give him something very sugary immediately. With a blood sugar of 30, he can become unresponsive.

That’s when I realized we probably don’t have the same scale of measuring blood sugar in Sweden as they do in the US, which was confirmed by the following information that a fellow kidney cancer patient who also happened to be diabetic found and summarized for me:

according to wikipedia at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_sugar

“The international standard way of measuring blood glucose levels are in terms of a molar concentration, measured in mmol/L (millimoles per litre; or millimolar, abbreviated mM). In the United States, West-Germany and other countries mass concentration is measured in mg/dL (milligrams per decilitre)”

whereas according to
https://web.archive.org/web/20110706100159/http://www.abbottdiabetescare.com.au/diabetes-faq-measure-units.php

“Sweden uses mmol/L”

According to
http://www.diabetes.co.uk/blood-sugar-converter.html

“30 mmol/L converts to 540 mg/dL”

Assuming that all the information above is correct, I am truly glad the nurse came and administered insulin. 540 is sky-high for USstandards aka 90-110 ideally.

So, a couple of take home messages here;

  • It’s important to be specific and have all the information when discussing health issues. I just wrote 30 and didn’t include the scale mmol/L – which made a huge difference!
  • Even basic measurements are not standardized internationally, which can make it challenging to communicate when travelling – or when looking for information online. All the more reason why patients (and caregivers) need access to correct and detailed information about their own health in order to be able to assess relevance and correctness of other sources.
  • e-patients are extremely helpful and will even do the searches for you to help explain why blood glucose 30 can be either extremely HIGH or extremely LOW – thank you!

[post 27 in #blogg100 challenge]

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