Steroid Induced Diabetes

All About Steroid Induced Diabetes

Steroid induced diabetes typically only occurs in patients undergoing treatment for other conditions such as lupus, cancer, or asthma.  The kind of steroid that causes diabetes when used at high doses is known as a glutocorticoid.  Physicians use it as an anti-inflammatory.  When used in high does however, it can act on the immune system in such a way that it may lead to diabetes.

Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition under which a sufferer cannot control their blood sugar levels.  Typically, those who get steroid induced diabetes recover from it after a short while.  For some, the steroids just accelerate a process that was already in its beginning stages.  In other words, even without the steroids, the patient would still have developed diabetes, but the steroid simply sped up the development of the condition.

To understand what steroids do to the body and how they lead to diabetes, you must understand how the body normally handles glucose.  Glucose—or blood sugar—is usually introduced into the blood stream through the foods that we eat.  Some foods are high in glucose while others are not.  When glucose enters the body, insulin usually helps to digest glucose into the blood.  (Insulin is already in the body).

Those who suffer from diabetes don’t produce enough insulin, which makes their blood glucose levels skyrocket, clogging the blood stream with blood sugars and leading to a series of other symptoms, including severe diseases of the heart.

Other conditions that may occur for those suffering from diabetes are damage to the eyes and even, sometimes a stroke.

Treatment for Steroid Induced Diabetes

Treatments for steroid induced diabetes vary, depending on the situation that precipitated the steroid use.  One of the most common treatments is simply to discontinue the type of steroid and allow insulin levels to return to normal.  Sometimes it may also be possible to replace one type of steroid with another in order to achieve the same result.  Of course, often this will only prolong the bout of diabetes since both types of steroids will often act in the same way.

Sometimes if the condition is not that serious or the patient is nearing the end of the treatment, the physician will simply determine that it is easiest simply to discontinue the use of the steroid altogether.  Typically, this will happen when the patient has already passed the worst phase of recovery and is making better than average progress.  For example, doctors might take a patient who has undergone an operation off the steroids early if they seem to have recovered without complication.

Sometimes, of course, it is not possible to discontinue the steroid use, which forces the patient to live with steroid induced diabetes until they have fully recovered from their other medical treatments.  This often happens when patients are taking chemotherapy for cancer or Leukemia.  Under these circumstances, the physician may treat the patient the same way they would anyone suffering from diabetes in the same situation.  The medical team will give the patient an insulin injector and teach him or her how to monitor blood sugar levels.

Sometimes, even after the steroids have been discontinued, the diabetes symptoms do not abate.  Occasionally, a combination of the prolonged exposure to insulin deficiency combined with the patient’s own medical susceptibility makes the patient become a diabetes sufferer permanently.  When this happens, it is tempting to blame the steroids, and see them as the cause of the diabetes.  Because diabetes often occurs later in life and because many studies indicate a connection between diabetes and heredity, however, it is not so easy to determine whether the steroids caused the diabetes, or simply revealed it.