Can Taking Prednisone Increase The Risk Of Developing Diabetes?

Managing your health can be challenging for anyone, but it can be particularly difficult if you have an inflammatory condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or psoriatic arthritis. These conditions can impact your quality of life, causing inflammation in different parts of the body, which can lead to pain, stiffness, and swelling, notes the Hospital for Special Surgery

Medication is often the first line of treatment for inflammatory conditions, and treatment usually includes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids, per Medical News Today. In addition to treating autoimmune disorders, corticosteroids such as prednisone are commonly prescribed for various other medical conditions, including allergies and respiratory illnesses, says MedlinePlus

Unfortunately, while steroids can effectively treat these conditions, they can also cause side effects, including headache, fatigue, and weight gain. There's also speculation that prednisone might spike blood sugar levels, increasing someone's risk of developing diabetes. However, the severity of this risk may depend on the dose, duration of treatment, and various individual factors.

How prednisone can cause diabetes

According to Medical News Today, the mechanism by which prednisone increases blood sugar levels is by reducing the body's sensitivity to insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. The medication triggers the liver to produce more glucose, which causes the pancreas to stop producing insulin, resulting in higher blood sugar levels, triggering what is known as steroid-induced diabetes. This claim is reiterated by a 2018 study published in the International Urology and Nephrology, which found that using 5 mg of prednisone daily was associated with an increased risk of diabetes. Symptoms of steroid-induced diabetes may include increased thirst, frequent urination, blurred vision, and fatigue.

Steroid-induced diabetes can occur in anyone who takes steroids, but certain individuals may be at higher risk. This includes people who have a family history of diabetes, are overweight or obese, or are 35 years or older, says Medical News Today. 

Speak to your doctor

If you are taking steroids and have concerns about your risk of developing diabetes, it is important to discuss this with your doctor. They can monitor your blood sugar levels and provide guidance on how to manage any potential risks associated with the medication. If you do develop steroid-induced diabetes, there are several treatment options available to help manage blood sugar levels and prevent long-term complications, says Medical News Today.

Your doctor may recommend changing your diet. This may include reducing the intake of carbohydrates and sugary foods and increasing the consumption of fiber-rich foods, says the Mayo Clinic. You can also consult with a registered dietitian who can help you develop an individualized meal plan that takes into account your specific needs and preferences. Regular exercise is also important and can help lower both your blood sugar and your blood pressure, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Your doctor can help you develop an appropriate exercise plan that considers any health conditions or limitations.