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What Is the Connection Between Prednisone and Diabetes?

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  • Written By: K.E. Walsh
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 25 March 2014
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Prednisone and diabetes are linked in many patients. A synthetic corticosteroid drug, prednisone has been shown to be the cause of diabetes in a large number of people. When this is the case, the condition is sometimes called steroid diabetes or steroid-induced diabetes. With careful attention, however, this type of diabetes can be controlled.

Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, is a disease in which the body does not properly metabolize insulin. For this reason, diabetes patients have high levels of glucose, a form of sugar, in their blood and in their urine. The use of prednisone can cause abnormalities in glucose levels. The drug tends to raise blood sugar levels when administered for an extended period of time.

Prednisone is part of a group of drugs called corticosteroids, or glucocorticoids. It helps the body reduce inflammation. Doctors prescribe it for conditions such as pneumonia, asthma, cystic fibrosis, skin conditions and allergic disorders. Prednisone can be prescribed for days or even weeks at a time.

Taking prednisone for a short time might raise a patient’s blood sugar levels, but not to a dangerous level. Prolonged exposure to the medication might trigger the link between prednisone and diabetes. Having to take prednisone for a long time can raise glucose levels enough to cause diabetes or to cause serious problems for people who already have diabetes. Cells inside a person’s body are deprived of energy and can starve if glucose levels rise and the glucose is not metabolized properly.

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The link between prednisone and diabetes can be controlled, however. By carefully monitoring blood glucose levels, patients who don't have diabetes but are taking prednisone can prevent themselves from getting the disease. Patients on prednisone who already have diabetes should monitor their blood sugar levels more closely than normal, watch their sugar intake and make sure not to get dehydrated while on the medication. Diabetes patients should not take prednisone without their doctor’s consent and supervision.

Steroid-induced diabetes is reversible. The effects of the corticosteroid on the body’s glucose levels go away within a few days after the medication is stopped. In this way, the connection between prednisone and diabetes can be controlled for most patients.

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Discuss this Article

stoneMason
Post 3

I think that those who might have to take prednisone should get a glucose tolerance test first. If someone is borderline diabetic, prednisone can push them over the edge. So other alternatives should be considered if that's the case.

For the most part though, prednisone caused blood sugar increases are temporary. If someone is otherwise healthy, blood sugar levels should return to normal when the prednisone treatment is over.

discographer
Post 2

@burcidi-- Yes, it can happen.

I don't have prednisone induced diabetes. I have hereditary type 2 diabetes and I had to take cortisone recently. Cortisone is not the same thing as prednisone, but it's a similar steroid. Cortisone increased my blood sugar a lot and it lasted for several weeks! I'm sure it has the same effect in non-diabetics. And like the article said, if blood sugar is consistently high, it leads to insulin resistance which is diabetes.

If you don't use prednisone regularly, I think you will be fine. But watch out for symptoms of diabetes. You can also buy a blood sugar monitor and check your blood sugar at home.

burcidi
Post 1

I can't believe that prednisone can cause diabetes. I take it sometimes for asthma and my doctor never mentioned this possible link. I hope I don't develop diabetes.

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