Insulin Resistance - Describe Your Experience

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What is insulin resistance?

Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the beta cells of the pancreas. These cells are scattered throughout the pancreas in small clusters known as the islets of Langerhans. The insulin produced is released into the blood stream and travels throughout the body. Insulin is an essential hormone that has many actions within the body. Most actions of insulin are directed at metabolism (control) of carbohydrates (sugars and starches), lipids (fats), and proteins. Insulin also regulates the functions of the body's cells, including their growth. Insulin is critical for the body's use of glucose as energy.

Insulin resistance (IR) is a condition in which the body's cells become resistant to the effects of insulin. That is, the normal response to a given amount of insulin is reduced. As a result, higher levels of insulin are needed in order for insulin to have its proper effects. So, the pancreas compensates by trying to produce more insulin. This resistance occurs in response to the body's own insulin (endogenous) or when insulin is administered by injection (exogenous).

With insulin resistance, the pancreas produces more and more insulin until the pancreas can no longer produce sufficient insulin for the body's demands, then blood sugar rises. Insulin resistance is a risk factor for development of diabetes and heart disease.

What causes insulin resistance?

There are several causes for insulin resistance, and genetic factors (inherited component) are usually significant. Some medications can contribute to insulin resistance. In addition, insulin resistance is often seen with the following conditions:

  • The metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions involving excess weight (particularly around the waist), high blood pressure, and elevated levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood.
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Infection or severe illness
  • Stress
  • Inactivity and excess weight
  • During steroid use
Return to Insulin Resistance

See what others are saying

Comment from: Itt, 13-18 Female (Patient) Published: April 08

I'm a senior in high school and was diagnosed with insulin resistance in my freshman year. I have skin tags on my neck and very bad acanthosis nigricans (a darkening and thickening of the skin) on my neck and other areas of my body. I've been living with it and trying to get it under control for four years now, but it's hard. I have never had healthy eating habits, and I don't exercise as much as I should. I don't really have the motivation. Well, I haven't had it. Now that I'm getting ready to graduate high school and enter the real world, I'm more motivated to eat healthier and start working out. But it's not easy with the temptations. In fact, it's very difficult, being that I have very little self-control. Just today I bought one of those zebra cakes because it looked so good. It's hard, but I'm trying!

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Comment from: a concerned mom, 7-12 Female (Caregiver) Published: April 24

My 11-year-old daughter was diagnosed with insulin resistance a year ago. No matter how much or little she ate, she continued to gain weight. Her thyroid levels were normal, and her pediatrician blamed her for the weight gain, telling her she needed to cut out the food. He told me to put her on a 1,000 calorie a day diet! I took her to a pediatric endocrinologist who immediately diagnosed her. She's been on Metformin, and so far, she has lost about 20 cm from her waist. She has more energy, and now loves to participate in sports that were almost impossible for her to do in the past. The treatment has been life-changing for her. She knows she will have this problem for the rest of her life. The only drawback is that the Metformin makes her nauseous, and I have to make sure she takes it daily. I want to tell all parents to listen to your intuition. If you see that no matter what your child does, he/she cannot lose weight/inches, insist on blood tests. Pay close attention to the insulin, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Don't let the pediatrician tell you it's nothing. Find a pediatric endocrinologist and have your child evaluated. You don't want to let this go untreated!

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