Sixteen patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) (n = 8), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) (n = 5), and systemic sclerosis (SSc) (n = 3), and 10 healthy subjects matched for age, sex, and body mass index, were submitted to an intravenous (IV) glucose tolerance test (GTT) (0.33 g/kg of body weight in 3 minutes) and to a euglycemic hyperinsulinemic glucose clamp to study insulin response and action. In the euglycemic clamp, along with the two insulin infusion rates (0.5 mU/kg.min from 0 to 120 minutes and 1 mU/kg.min from 121 to 240 minutes), a primed (20 microCi) continuous (0.2 microCi/min) infusion of 3H-glucose allowed determination of glucose kinetics. Our data show that patients versus controls have (1) a significant increase in basal plasma insulin levels (87.2 +/- 14.8 v 41.3 +/- 6.0 pmol/L, P less than .05); (2) similar glucose-induced acute insulin response; and (3) a lower glucose disappearance rate (Rd), glucose metabolic clearance rate (gMCR), and glucose infusion rate (GIR) when the lowest insulin infusion rate was delivered. These differences disappeared when the insulin infusion rate was doubled. Furthermore, basal plasma insulin levels and glucose disappearance rate significantly correlated with the main inflammatory indices of each disease studied. We conclude that in our patients impaired glucose handling is mainly due to peripheral insulin resistance.