What Is Secondary Diabetes?

Physicians recommend that people over the age of 45 have diabetes screenings on a routine basis.
Iatrogenic diabetes is one of the most common types of secondary diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is a common form of secondary diabetes.
It is critical for those with diabetes to check their blood sugar regularly.
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  • Written By: Matt Brady
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 28 July 2014
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Secondary diabetes, also known as secondary diabetes mellitus, is the same as type 1 and type 2 diabetes in the regard that it's caused by the pancreas' inability to produce sufficient amounts of insulin. Unlike other forms of diabetes, however, which are the result of genetic and environmental factors, secondary diabetes occurs as a reaction to other internal ailments and complications. Gestational and iatrogenic diabetes are common forms of secondary diabetes.

Types 2 diabetes is somewhat more preventable than other type because it is generally caused by a combination of factors like obesity, pregnancy, a high-fat diet, or excessive alcohol intake, rather than a genetic problem with the pancreas. If the root of the problem can be properly and quickly treated, it is possible to prevent this particular type of diabetes from occurring.

Iatrogenic diabetes is one of the most common forms of this disease. It is caused by medical treatments which affect the pancreas' ability to produce insulin. This could be the result of having to surgically remove the pancreas, or perhaps caused by prescription medications with side effects that damage the pancreas.


Gestational is another form of secondary diabetes and is brought on by an over saturation of glucose in the bloodstream during late-term pregnancy. The body needs more insulin to break down the extra glucose, and in certain cases, simply cannot cope with the demand. As a result, some pregnant women contract diabetes. Gestational diabetes is often a temporary situation, lasting only until shortly after birth. If caught in time, most hospitals and doctors are well-equipped to treat the condition.

If left untreated, gestational diabetes can be very dangerous and even deadly; women with gestational diabetes have much higher odds of getting preeclampsia, a condition which causes blood pressure to skyrocket. If the condition is severe enough, seizures and organ failure can occur, which can be potentially fatal to mother and child. Even if it isn't too severe and goes away, gestational diabetes is still something mothers and doctors ought to take seriously. It can increase the chances for jaundice in extremely early childhood, and can also make infants pack on more weight in the womb, leading to complications during delivery.

Though sometimes preventable if the risk factors are caught early on, secondary diabetes can be particularly difficult to treat since it can affect individuals with no genetic history of diabetes. This makes it harder to plan for the disease as well as possibly more difficult to pinpoint exactly what caused it. In some cases, it might be fairly obvious to ascertain why secondary diabetes occurred, as in pregnancy. In other cases, as when induced by medical prescriptions such as birth control, it may be more difficult to understand the exact cause of the disease and how best to treat it.


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