Insulin is a hormone (a chemical substance that acts as a messenger in the human body) that is secreted by an abdominal organ called the pancreas. It controls the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats and proteins in the body. It also guides the liver and muscles to store glucose and fat that can be used during periods of increased energy requirements and fasting. Insulin is a “key” that unlocks the cell gates so that glucose from the blood enters the cells. The cells of the muscle and fat tissue are dependent solely on insulin for glucose uptake and use.
The lack of insulin in the body or inefficient insulin action at cellular levels causes blood sugar levels to spike (hyperglycemia). Hyperglycemia is the hallmark of diabetes mellitus. Insulin is the only hormone in the body that can prevent hyperglycemia.
Hyperinsulinemia: Some individuals require higher than normal amounts of insulin to maintain their blood sugar levels. This condition is called hyperinsulinemia. It is often found to co-exist with insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is a state in which a given insulin concentration does not cause an expected dip in blood sugar levels. Insulin resistance may be caused by
- Antibodies to insulin or to the site in the cell where insulin binds (seen in autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis).
- Suboptimal quality insulin (less effective insulin) as seen in people with certain genetic diseases.
- Genetic tendency to insulin resistance as seen in the people of Latino, African American, Native American or Asian-American heritage.
Certain conditions may cause temporary insulin resistance and resultant hyperinsulinemia, but as soon as the underlying cause is corrected, insulin resistance goes away. These conditions include long-term stress, infections, long-term sleep deprivation, obesity and pregnancy. These conditions release the stress hormones in the body. Stress hormones are a known cause of insulin resistance and high insulin levels.
The other causes of high insulin levels that may need medical intervention are as follows.
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of multiple maladies including
|Tumors of insulin-secreting cells||
High insulin levels often have no clinical symptoms and may go undetected. Rarely, they may cause recurrent low blood sugar, which may be seen as palpitations, irritability, sweating and hunger pangs. Some individuals with long-standing insulin resistance may develop skin tags over the neck and armpits. Others may have dark underarms and groins (acanthosis nigricans).
What are normal insulin levels?
Insulin levels in the blood can be interpreted using a simple blood test that is performed after eight hours of fasting. This test must be performed in individuals with suspected insulin resistance or as a part of a hormonal panel in metabolic syndrome evaluation.
The normal values of insulin are as follows.
|Insulin level||Insulin level (SI units*)||Values in pmol/L|
|Fasting||<25 mIU/L||<174 pmol/L|
|30 minutes after glucose administration||30-230 mIU/L||208-1,597 pmol/L|
|1 hour after glucose administration||18-276 mIU/L||125-1,917 pmol/L|
|2 hours after glucose administration||16-166 mIU/L||111-1,153 pmol/L|
|≥3 hours after glucose administration||<25 mIU/L||<174 pmol/L|
What are the consequences of high insulin levels?
The following are the consequences of high insulin levels:
- High insulin levels generally translate into an overworked pancreas. This may be followed by the exhaustion of the pancreatic cells, resulting in the development of diabetes mellitus.
- Diabetes further brings on complications such as heart disease, nerve damage, eye damage and kidney damage.
- High insulin levels have been linked to the development of certain cancers such as cancer of the gut, although it is not proven conclusively.
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a dysfunction of the liver due to increased fat deposition inside the organ. It is seen in individuals with insulin resistance.
- High insulin levels hasten plaque buildup in the large blood vessels causing atherosclerosis (blockages).
- High levels of insulin affect the estrogen-progesterone ratio in the ovaries and may result in polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) that may cause irregular periods and infertility in young women.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
The Clinical Biochemist Reviews
Top What Is a High Insulin Level Related Articles
Can Metabolic Syndrome Be Reversed?Metabolic syndrome refers to a cluster of health conditions that increase the risk of heart diseases, stroke, and diabetes. It is known by several other names such as syndrome X, insulin resistance syndrome, and obesity syndrome.
Diabetes Treatment: Medication, Diet, and Insulin
The major goal in treating diabetes is controlling elevated blood sugar without causing abnormally low levels of blood sugar. Type 1 diabetes is treated with:
- and a diabetic diet.
Type 2 diabetes is first treated with:
- weight reduction,
- a diabetic diet,
- and exercise.
When these measures fail to control the elevated blood sugar, oral medications are used. If oral medications are still insufficient, insulin medications are considered.
How Do You Give Intravenous Insulin Therapy?Intravenous insulin therapy is a treatment procedure to control high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) in ICU patients. Rapid and efficient control of hyperglycemia improves recovery rates and reduces mortality in critically ill patients. People with diabetes self-administer their daily doses into the skin, not into a blood vessel.
How Long Does Insulin Last After Injection?Insulin therapy is a treatment for keeping the blood sugar levels within the normal range, managing type I diabetes and type II diabetes mellitus. Various formulations of insulin may be short- or long-acting, prescribed depending on the patient's condition.
Insulin for Diabetes Treatment (Types, Side Effects, and Preparations)There are a variety of types and preparations of insulin for the treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, diabetes during pregnancy, metabolic syndrome, and insulin resistance. Human insulin preparations and regular insulin are made by recombinant DNA technology. Examples of preparations of insulin include rapid acting insulin (Apirda, Novolog, Humalog), short acting insulin (Novolin R, Humulin R), intermediate acting insulin (Humulin N, Novolin N, and long lasting insulin (Lantus, Levemir). Common side effects of insulin include hypoglycemia, headache, weight gain, rash, itching, flu-like symptoms, lipoatrophy, and reaction at the site of injection. Warnings, precautions, and drug interactions should be reviewed prior to taking insulin.
insulin glargine (Lantus)Insulin glargine (Lantus) is an injectable form of long-lasting insulin that is prescribed to regulate blood sugar levels in individuals with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Side effects, drug interactions, dosing, storage, and pregnancy safety information should be reviewed prior to taking any medication.
Insulin Pump for DiabetesAn insulin pump is designed to deliver insulin directly to a patient with diabetes. They are about the size of a standard beeper. The pump is attached to under the skin (usually on the abdomen). The amount of insulin required will depend on lifestyle (exercise, sleep patterns, activity level, and diet).
Insulin ResistanceInsulin resistance is the diminished ability of cells to respond to the action of insulin in transporting glucose (sugar) from the bloodstream into muscle and other tissues. There are no signs or symptoms of insulin resistance. Causes of insulin can include conditions such as stress, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and steroid use. Some of the risk factors for insulin resistance include fatty liver, heart disease, strokes, peripheral vascular disease, high cholesterol, and smoking. Treatment for insulin resistance are lifestyle changes and if necessary, medication.
Metabolic SyndromeThe main features of metabolic syndrome include insulin resistance, hypertension (high blood pressure), cholesterol abnormalities, and an increased risk for clotting. Patients are most often overweight or obese. Lifestyle modification such as the Mediterranean diet, exercise, and quitting smoking are the preferred treatment of metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic Syndrome QuizMetabolic syndrome is serious and you should be concerned. Learn the causes, symptoms, treatments, and complications of metabolic syndrome with our quick quiz.
Metformin vs. Insulin
Metformin (Glumetza, Glucophage, and Fortamet) and insulin are used to treat diabetes. A difference is metformin is used to treat only type 2 diabetes, while insulin may be used to treat both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Metformin is also used to treat polycystic ovaries and weight gain due to medications used for treating psychoses.
Diabetes: What Raises and Lowers Your Blood Sugar Level?Want to lower your blood sugar? Learn to better control your glucose levels by preventing blood sugar spikes and swings to avoid neuropathy and other diabetes complications. Find foods that lower blood sugar, and identify foods and activities that raise high blood sugar risks.
Type 2 Diabetes SignsLearn about type 2 diabetes warning signs, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options. Find out why thirst, headaches, and infections could be signs of diabetes. Discover the treatment options for people with type 2 diabetes, including medicines and lifestyle improvements.
What Is Intravenous Insulin Therapy?Intravenous insulin therapy is a treatment procedure to manage high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) with intravenous infusion of insulin. Intravenous insulin is administered only in a hospital ICU setting in selected critically ill patients with a diabetes emergency or other conditions affecting blood sugar. People with diabetes self administer insulin subcutaneously, not in the vein.
Xultophy (insulin degludec and liraglutide injection)Xultophy (insulin degludec and liraglutide injection) is a combination drug to help adults with type 2 diabetes control their blood sugar. This medication should be used with caution because it may cause or worsen thyroid tumors and heart failure as a side effect.