Blood level of insulin varies throughout the day depending on the food intake and, the intensity of the physical exercise, among many other factors.
This is why some people with high levels of insulin may have no symptoms while others are suffering from severe symptoms at much lower levels of insulin. In this article, we would like to introduce you to the causes of having high levels of insulin and their main symptoms. Here is what you will read next:
Insulin and blood sugar
An increase in the amount of insulin in the bloodstream beyond normal levels is called “Hyperinsulinemia“. Insulin is a critical hormone secreted by pancreatic cells into the bloodstream to help our body to control blood sugar levels. Insulin causes body’s cells to absorb sugar molecules in the bloodstream. If any problem disrupts the regular secretion or the function of insulin in our body, the happening of diabetes mellitus may be unavoidable.
In the following, we will first briefly talk about the pathological causes of having increased insulin level in the blood and then will describe the most common symptoms of high insulin in detail. However it should be remembered that as mentioned above, different food habits or physical activities can result in a normal increase in the blood insulin levels so when taking blood test, the results should be interpreted very carefully considering all these factors.
Causes of high blood insulin (hyperinsulinemia)
Insulin resistance is the most common cause of having increased insulin levels in the blood, meaning that our cells do not respond to insulin well enough. In this situation, insulin secreting glands have to raise the blood insulin level in order to reach the normal blood sugar levels.
Because the insulin has also many other functional attributes in our body like affecting the growth of our bones, this raise in the insulin causes a set of symptoms called metabolic syndrome (a collection of multiple symptoms together is called syndrome). Type 2 diabetes mellitus is part of this syndrome.
Tumors that cause hyperinsulinemia
This tumor is an insulin-secreting tumor developed in the pancreas. With the development of this tumor, there would be a benign or malignant proliferation of insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas. Due to this tumor, the level of blood insulin gets very high, triggering the excessive entrance of blood sugar into the cells inside our body.
This sudden and abrupt depletion of blood sugar caused by high insulin will lead to having low blood sugar called Hypoglycemia. Patients with high insulin usually have symptoms triggered by having low level of blood sugar like sweeting, confusions, headaches and other that will be mentioned later in this article.
This condition happens because of the excess production of insulin by pancreatic insulin-producing cells, which increases insulin levels in the blood and as a result causes severe hypoglycemia.
In this disease, the number of insulin-producing cells are normal, but the amount of insulin that is produced by each cell and secreted into bloodstream is more than what it should be.
The relationship between diabetes and insulin
In diabetes mellitus type 2, which is part of the syndrome caused by insulin resistance, blood sugar is high triggering pancreas to make more and more insulin in order to push the blood glucose into targeted cells and lower the blood sugar.
High amount of insulin enters the bloodstream, but for some reasons, there is insulin resistance circumstance within the body that prevents insulin from doing its job. In this case, the functionality of insulin, i.e. pushing blood sugar into cells, is disrupted, and as a result blood sugar starts to increase, resulting in type-2 diabetes.
Note that other functions of insulin may not be disrupted and this is why we sometimes see only some symptoms in diabetic person.
Relationship between tumors and insulin
As mentioned above, all these tumors may trigger the insulin producing cells inside pancreas to produce insulin more than what is needed. The excess amount of insulin enters the bloodstream and forces more and more sugar to be absorbed by cells. Eventually, this will result in a significant drop in blood sugar even to deadly levels.
Therefore, in people with high levels of insulin we usually see severe and recurrent hypoglycemic attacks unlike diabetes where the situation is somehow stable and chronic without any hypoglycemic attach rather than hyperglycemia (high blood glucose).
In the following, we will talk more about the symptoms of having high blood insulin.
Symptoms of hyperinsulinemia in insulin resistant patients
The main characteristic of this disease is that the patient has both high blood sugar and insulin in his or her bloodstream. The most common symptoms seen in these patients are:
- Fatigue and drowsiness
- Hunger (feeling weak and very hungry)
- Having difficulty to concentrate
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Weight gain (these people gain extra weight, which is usually concentrated around their abdomen)
- Elevated blood lipids (upsetting the balance of blood lipids)
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Polycystic ovary syndrome in women
- Excess hair growth in women
- Dermatologic manifestations (such as darkening of the folds of the body, such as the neck and armpits, called acanthosis nigricans)
Symptoms of insulinoma and nesidioblastosis
The main characteristic of these conditions is that the patient has high insulin levels in the bloodstream despite having very low level of blood glucose. Symptoms observe in this group of patients include:
- Irritability, anxiety and restlessness
- Rapid mood swings
- Persistent weakness
- Decreased alertness and drowsiness
Patients with these conditions are generally overweight because of overeating happening to reduce hunger and regulate their blood sugar. These people are often unable to exercise due to their rapidly declining blood sugar, and this lack of physical activity is another cause of weight gain.