What are the Symptoms of Insulin Resistance?

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  • Written By: Emma Lloyd
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 12 October 2019
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Insulin resistance is a medical condition that occurs when the body’s cells stop responding correctly to insulin. One strong influence over the development of insulin resistance is genetic, because insulin resistance often runs in families. Several other factors can contribute to the development of this condition, including illness, stress, steroid use, pregnancy and being over a healthy weight. Symptoms of insulin resistance include fatigue, increased blood sugar, digestive symptoms and weight gain. Over time, some symptoms of insulin resistance can worsen and, in conjunction with other health conditions, might indicate a progression of the disease to type 2 diabetes.

Some of the body’s cell types, including fat and muscle cells, require insulin to absorb glucose from the bloodstream. In some people, the ability of these cells to respond to glucose becomes impaired. This is called insulin resistance. If insulin resistance is not treated, fat and muscle cells cannot absorb glucose, and the glucose remains in the blood, leading to high blood sugar levels. In the absence of treatment, high blood sugar can cause type 2 diabetes and damage the body’s tissues.


Insulin resistance is one of the first signs that the body’s metabolism is dysfunctional. Some common insulin resistance symptoms include mental or physical fatigue, intestinal gas and bloating, weight gain in the abdominal area and difficulty losing weight. People with insulin resistance also might feel sleepy after eating, especially if the meal is high in carbohydrates, and they also might be more prone to digestive problems after eating carbohydrates.

Certain blood test results also can point to symptoms of insulin resistance. People with insulin resistance often have high blood sugar and high cholesterol. In particular, it is common to have high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Insulin resistance also is known to cause high blood pressure in some people.

Often, children display a symptom pattern different from that seen in adults. Symptoms of insulin resistance in children can include several of the common signs, such as fatigue, digestive problems and sleepiness after eating. Other symptoms, such as poor memory, reduced creativity, poor grades and even learning disabilities, also can be signs of insulin resistance in children.

Insulin resistance symptoms can be managed in several ways. The main treatment is a combination of exercise and healthy eating for the better management of blood sugar levels. For some people, this also leads to weight loss, but weight loss is not always required to reduce insulin resistance and diabetes risk. If the condition does not respond to these changes, oral medication to manage symptoms of insulin resistance and improve blood sugar levels might be prescribed.


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