Is hyperinsulinemia a form of diabetes?

Answers from M. Regina Castro, M.D.

Hyperinsulinemia (hi-pur-in-suh-lih-NEE-me-uh) means the amount of insulin in your blood is higher than what's considered normal. Alone, 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.

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

Rarely, hyperinsulinemia is caused by:

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

Hyperinsulinemia usually causes no signs or symptoms, except in people with an insulinoma in whom it can cause low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Treatment of hyperinsulinemia is directed at the underlying problem.

With

M. Regina Castro, M.D.

Nov. 14, 2014