Is hyperinsulinemia a form of diabetes?

Answer From M. Regina Castro, M.D.

Hyperinsulinemia (hi-pur-in-suh-lih-NEE-me-uh) means the amount of insulin in the blood is higher than what's considered healthy. On its own, hyperinsulinemia isn't diabetes. But hyperinsulinemia often is associated with type 2 diabetes.

Insulin is a hormone that the pancreas makes. It helps control blood sugar. Hyperinsulinemia is connected to insulin resistance — a condition in which the body doesn't respond as it should to the effects of insulin. In that situation, the pancreas makes more insulin in order to overcome the resistance, leading to higher levels of insulin in the blood. Type 2 diabetes develops when the pancreas can no longer make the large amounts of insulin needed to keep blood sugar at a healthy level.

Rarely, hyperinsulinemia is caused by:

  • A tumor of the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. These tumors are called insulinomas.
  • Too many cells in the pancreas that make insulin or too much growth of those cells. This condition is called nesidioblastosis.

Hyperinsulinemia usually doesn't cause symptoms in people with insulin resistance. In people who have insulinomas, hyperinsulinemia may lead to low blood sugar, a condition called hypoglycemia.

Treatment of hyperinsulinemia is directed at the problem that's causing it.

With

M. Regina Castro, M.D.

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Dec. 07, 2022 See more Expert Answers