Glucocorticoid-Induced Diabetes Mellitus: An Important but Overlooked Problem

Endocrinol Metab (Seoul). 2017 Jun;32(2):180-189. doi: 10.3803/EnM.2017.32.2.180. Epub 2017 May 29.


Glucocorticoids are widely used as potent anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive drugs to treat a wide range of diseases. However, they are also associated with a number of side effects, including new-onset hyperglycemia in patients without a history of diabetes mellitus (DM) or severely uncontrolled hyperglycemia in patients with known DM. Glucocorticoid-induced diabetes mellitus (GIDM) is a common and potentially harmful problem in clinical practice, affecting almost all medical specialties, but is often difficult to detect in clinical settings. However, scientific evidence is lacking regarding the effects of GIDM, as well as strategies for prevention and treatment. Similarly to nonsteroid-related DM, the principles of early detection and risk factor modification apply. Screening for GIDM should be considered in all patients treated with medium to high doses of glucocorticoids. Challenges in the management of GIDM stem from wide fluctuations in postprandial hyperglycemia and the lack of clearly defined treatment protocols. Together with lifestyle measures, hypoglycemic drugs with insulin-sensitizing effects are indicated. However, insulin therapy is often unavoidable, to the point that insulin can be considered the drug of choice. The treatment of GIDM should take into account the degree and pattern of hyperglycemia, as well as the type, dose, and schedule of glucocorticoid used. Moreover, it is essential to instruct the patient and/or the patient's family about how to perform the necessary adjustments. Prospective studies are needed to answer the remaining questions regarding GIDM.

Keywords: Diabetes mellitus; Glucocorticoids; Hyperglycemia.

Publication types

  • Review