Hyperinsulinemia

Medically reviewed by Suzanne Falck, MD on October 11, 2017Written by Diana K. Wells

Overview

Hyperinsulinemia is abnormally high levels of insulin in your body. Insulin is a hormone that your pancreas creates. This hormone helps maintain proper blood sugar levels.

Hyperinsulinemia isn’t considered diabetes if it’s the only symptom. However, they can both be caused by insulin resistance. Therefore, it’s common for this condition to be linked to type 2 diabetes.

What are the symptoms?

Hyperinsulinemia may not have any noticeable symptoms. However, some possible symptoms may include:

  • sugar cravings
  • unusual weight gain
  • frequent hunger
  • excessive hunger
  • issues with concentration
  • anxiety or feelings of panic
  • lack of focus or ambition
  • extreme tiredness
  • hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar

Symptoms in infants and young children may include:

  • difficulty feeding
  • extreme irritability
  • lethargy or no energy

What are the causes?

The typical cause of hyperinsulinemia is insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is what happens when your body doesn’t respond correctly to insulin. This incorrect response causes your body to need the pancreas to produce more insulin.

As your pancreas makes more insulin, your body continues to resist and respond incorrectly to the higher levels of insulin. Your pancreas will continually need to make more to compensate. Eventually, your pancreas won’t be able to keep up with the amount of insulin your body needs to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level. Insulin resistance can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes.

Less common causes of this condition are insulinoma and nesidioblastosis. Insulinoma is a rare tumor of the pancreas cells that produce insulin.

Nesidioblastosis is when the pancreas produces too many cells that make insulin.

Hyperinsulinemia may also develop after having gastric bypass surgery. The theory is that the cells have become too large and active for the body, but the body has changed significantly after the bypass. Doctors aren’t fully sure why this happens.

Other causes include:

  • genetic predisposition
  • family history of hypertension, or high blood pressure

How is it diagnosed?

Hyperinsulinemia is usually diagnosed through a blood test taken when you’re fasting. It may also be diagnosed when your doctor is checking for other conditions like diabetes.

What are the treatment options?

Treatment for hyperinsulinemia begins by treating whatever is causing it. This is particularly true if your condition is caused by insulinoma or nesidioblastosis.

Your treatment may also include a combination of medication, lifestyle changes, and possibly surgery. These lifestyle changes include diet and exercise.

Medications

The medications used to treat this condition are the same or similar to the medications used to treat diabetes. However, medication should be used only if diet and exercise aren’t enough to control the condition.

Some medications can make this condition worse. It’s important to discuss each medication with your doctor. It’s also important that all your doctors are aware of all the medications you take and all your medical conditions.

Exercise

Exercise or any physical activity can be effective in improving your body’s sensitivity to insulin. This improvement reduces insulin resistance, a main cause of hyperinsulinemia. Exercise can also reduce obesity, which may be an underlying cause of this condition.

Discuss the types of exercise you should try while treating this condition with your doctor. This is because some exercises or the intensity of some exercise may aggravate your condition instead of improving it.

There are two main types of exercises that are recommended for the treatment of hyperinsulinemia. They are:

  • Resistance exercises. This type focuses on one muscle group at a time. This should include a low number of repetitions and significant rest periods in between.
  • Aerobic exercise. Aim for light- to moderate-intensity for the most effective results. Some good aerobic exercises for this condition include walking, swimming, and jogging.

HIIT exercise is also recommended. It’s a form of aerobic exercise. It alternates between short high-intensity sets and low-intensity sets, which help with recovery.

Diet

Diet is particularly important in any treatment, as well as with the treatment of hyperinsulinemia. A healthy diet can help better regulate your body’s overall functions and reduce excess weight. It may also help regulate your glucose and insulin levels.

There are three preferred diets for glycemic control and the treatment of hyperinsulinemia. They are:

  • the Mediterranean diet
  • a low-fat diet
  • a low-carbohydrate diet

These diets can help with your glycemic control, which will improve your body’s insulin response. A high-protein diet should be avoided. Diets high in protein may help with some forms of diabetes, but they can increase hyperinsulinemia.

Each of these diets consists primarily of fruits, whole grains, vegetables, fiber, and lean meats. Be sure to discuss any diet changes with your doctor before beginning a new diet plan.

Are there any complications with this condition?

Hyperinsulinemia can cause low blood sugar. Low blood sugar can cause several serious complications. These complications may include:

  • seizures
  • coma
  • cognitive function issues (especially in young children)

What’s the outlook?

Hyperinsulinemia can be managed and kept under control. However, it’s important to have regular checkups with your doctor. These checkups will allow for a timely diagnosis. The earlier this condition is diagnosed and treated, the less likely you’ll have serious complications.

CMS Id: 134143