Is hyperinsulinemia a form of diabetes?

Answers from Maria Collazo-Clavell, M.D.

Hyperinsulinemia (hi-pur-in-suh-lih-NEE-me-uh) means the amount of insulin in your blood is higher than considered normal. It isn't diabetes. But hyperinsulinemia is often associated with type 2 diabetes.

Insulin is produced by your pancreas and helps regulate blood sugar. Hyperinsulinemia is a sign of an underlying problem controlling blood sugar, which requires your pancreas to secrete large amounts of insulin to keep your blood sugar within a normal range.

Hyperinsulinemia is most often caused by insulin resistance — a condition in which your body is resistant to the effects of insulin and your pancreas tries to compensate by making more insulin. Insulin resistance may also eventually lead to the development of type 2 diabetes — when your pancreas is no longer able to secrete the large amounts of insulin required to keep the blood sugar normal.

Rarely, hyperinsulinemia is caused by:

  • A tumor of the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas (insulinoma)
  • Excessive numbers of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas (nesidioblastosis)

Hyperinsulinemia causes no signs or symptoms unless it causes low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Treatment of hyperinsulinemia is directed at the underlying problem.

Dec. 07, 2011