Insulin is a hormone generated by the pancreas to control the blood sugar levels. Individuals with type 1 diabetes do not produce enough insulin to maintain the normal blood sugar levels. As for those with type 2 diabetes, the level of insulin rises to overcome the resistance of the body to its effects. Other possible causes of high insulin level include insulin-secreting tumors and pregnancy.
Resistance to insulin
The development of type 2 diabetes is preceded by insulin resistance or impaired glucose tolerance. The risk factors for insulin resistance include:
- Overweight or obesity
- Lack of regular physical activity
- Old age
The resistance arises if the body tissues are not sensitive to the effects of insulin. This causes the blood sugar levels to rise above normal.
As the blood sugar levels rise, the insulin levels rise as well. During the initial phases of type 2 diabetes, the level of insulin generally stays higher than normal. As for chronic type 2 diabetes, however, the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas burns out, resulting to low levels of insulin. Once this occurs, insulin shots might be necessary to regulate the blood sugar level.
During the normal course of pregnancy, the insulin level rises as the fetus grows. By late pregnancy, sensitivity to insulin drops, causing the levels to rise. Even though insulin resistance is relatively normal in the late stage of pregnancy, some end up with a pregnancy-related type called as gestational diabetes.
In rare instances, the presence of an insulin-secreting tumor (insulinoma) can trigger high insulin levels. These are small-sized tumors that are generally found in the pancreas.
Women over 50 years of age are typically affected. Most of these tumors are not cancerous. It can trigger a significant drop in the blood sugar levels due to the surges in the insulin generated by the tumor.