Corticosteroid induced diabetes mellitus: diagnosis and management

Abstract

Steroid diabetes occurs in 20% (range 10-60%) of the persons treated with corticosteroid drugs. Steroid diabetes diagnosis often is omitted or late because the diagnostic sensitivity of fasting blood sugar is low, so the postprandial blood glucose must be monitored and the diagnosis should be made clinically, based on 2 hours after lunch blood glucose or OGTT.

Steroid diabetes causes increased hospitalizations for acute diabetic complications; there are few data on the chronic complications. Steroid therapy increases the macrovascular complications in diabetic people, while globally does not increase the mortality.

However, in solid organ transplant recipients steroid diabetes causes 60% increase of rejections, 90% of mortality and 150% of the annual costs and considerably worsens the prognosis of AGVHD in bone marrow transplants.

The corticosteroids have negative actions on insulin resistance in muscle, liver and adipose tissue and on insulin secretion; hyperglycemia is mainly postprandial, in the afternoon and in the evening, also related to the pharmacokinetics of the drugs.

There is insufficient evidence of the efficacy of specific treatments in randomized controlled trials and the treatment is based on pathophysiology, mechanisms of action of drugs and experience. The antidiabetic drug choosing criteria are the body weight, the underlying disease, the type and dose of the corticosteroid drugs, the way of administration, the blood glucose levels, the possible contraindications. New antidiabetic drugs can open therapeutic perspectives, yet still to be explored with ad hoc studies.

Insulin is frequently needed, in single or multiple doses with different combinations.

Key words: drug induced diabetes, glucocorticoids, steroid diabetes

Full text of the article is available in Italian.