What Is the Relationship between Corticosteroids and Diabetes?

K.C. Bruning

The primary relationship between corticosteroids and diabetes is that the drug can potentially bring on or worsen the effects of the disease. This is mostly because corticosteroids increase blood sugar. For this reason, patients with diabetes are typically advised to consult a doctor before taking corticosteroids.

Studies have linked inhaled corticosteroids to diabetes, particularly in the elderly.
Studies have linked inhaled corticosteroids to diabetes, particularly in the elderly.

One of the connections between corticosteroids and diabetes found in research involves the inhaled version of the drug. Inhaled corticosteroids may increase the chance of developing diabetes mellitus. This has been found to be particularly true with the elderly.

Another connection between corticosteroids and diabetes is related to the way the drug lowers blood sugar. This effect has lead to hyperglycemia in patients who use the drug over the long term. It is thought that this could lead to corticosteroid-induced diabetes.

Some medical professionals believe that corticosteroid use is linked to, but does not cause, diabetes. Instead, they claim that the drug simply speeds the development of symptoms of the disease in patients who were already predisposed to the condition. It is also thought that it could simply make symptoms easier to detect and thus make it possible to diagnose the condition more quickly.

In order to lower the chances of side effects of mixing corticosteroids and diabetes, it is advisable for patients to have their blood and urine checked regularly while using the drug. Changes in sugar levels could indicate a problem and will usually require stopping use of the drug. In some cases, an adjusted dosage will be sufficient to avoid side effects related to diabetes.

The effect of corticosteroids on blood sugar level increases exponentially with continued administration of the drug. It typically begins to have this effect after a few days of corticosteroid use. This is why it can be important to regularly test patients’ blood and urine while they are on the drug, as changes can occur relatively quickly.

There are several other conditions which may make taking corticosteroids too dangerous. These include heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Patients with bone disease, glaucoma, or stomach and intestine problems are also at a higher risk of side effects. The drug may also be problematic for patients who have emotional issues.

Corticosteroid drugs are used to perform the same functions as hydrocortisone and cortisone, which are produced naturally in the body. Some of the benefits of the drug include stress reduction, decreasing inflammation, and improving immunity. It is commonly used for arthritis. Other conditions for which corticosteroids may be prescribed include rashes from allergies, asthma, and Crohn’s disease.

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