Insulin Resistance: Symptoms, causes and treatment

03 October 2017 |

Diabetes is a problem that plagues many people. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, more than 29 million Americans have it. And the number of people afflicted is growing, as that number represents an increase from 26 million in 2010. Furthermore, the CDC reports that over 86 million have prediabetes. So this is a condition that is not only prevalent, but is growing and poised to continue growing more over time. Given that insulin is the treatment for this condition, it is important for anyone who has diabetes, or has a loved one with diabetes, to understand insulin resistance.

Diabetes

What is insulin resistance? Insulin resistance involves your body no longer being receptive to insulin’s effects. Insulin is naturally produced by your body (your pancreas, specifically. It helps regulate the breakdown of sugars and fats. Your body responds to this by trying to produce more insulin. Insulin resistance causes prediabetes, which is often, but not always, a precursor to diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, 70% of people with prediabetes will wind up with diabetes, so insulin resistance is definitely something to be concerned about.

What sort of symptoms should you watch for to see if you might have prediabetes? This can actually be tricky as sometimes the condition shows no symptoms. This may lead to people affected by the condition going undiagnosed for long periods of time.

One symptom that you can watch for is called acanthosis nigricans. This is a condition in which those affected by it have dark patches on one’s skin, particularly in areas such as body folds and creases. If you notice this discoloration, you should contact your physician to learn more about whether the cause of this is in fact insulin resistance.

You may also notice that you have symptoms that are often consistent with diabetes itself. Some examples of common symptoms of diabetes include, but are not limited to:

  • thirst or hunger beyond normal everyday levels
  • a feeling of hunger despite having just eaten
  • urinating often, or more often than you typically would
  • tingling sensations in the hands or the feet
  • fatigue

Some of these symptoms may be easy to overlook, as you may think that being tired, hungry, or thirsty are simply byproducts of a long day or busy lifestyle.

If you are noticing that you are affected by these symptoms, contact your physician. They can conduct tests that will help confirm whether you are suffering from insulin resistance.

Wondering what causes insulin resistance? There are multiple potential factors. The answer may be genetic. Does anyone in your family have a history of these sorts of conditions? If so, you may be at a heightened risk for them yourself.

Some medicines can cause insulin resistance. Be sure to consult your physician to see if a drug you are on might have this as a side effect. Or if you are being prescribed a new drug, find out if this could be a possible unintended result.

If you live a very sedentary lifestyle, you may also be at a heightened risk for this condition. Similarly, people who are obese run a higher risk of insulin resistance and diabetic symptoms. Sedentary lifestyles and obesity often go hand and hand, so it is no surprise that both these are potential causes of the same problem.

Leading a high stress lifestyle can also be a cause, as various infections and illnesses.

Now that you understand some of the symptoms to look for, and what may be causing the condition, you will want to know what can be done to treat it.

One thing you can do is change your lifestyle. As noted earlier, insulin resistance can often be traced back to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. As such, you can take steps to change your lifestyle in order to improve the condition. Change your diet to include more low fat, low sugar items. Begin a regular exercise regimen (consult with your physician of course to first understand what types of exercises you should engage in initially as well as how much exercise is appropriate in your current physical condition). Look for simple changes such as taking stairs rather than elevators and walking more often.

There are also medications that can help with Insulin Resistance, such as Metformin and Acrabose, to name two. Again, consulting your doctor in order to understand what type of medication would be best for you is recommended.

Insulin resistance can be a serious problem, but it is not without hope. The road to a proper diagnosis, and if needed, recovery, starts with a visit to your physician.