Steroid-induced hyperglycemia: An underdiagnosed problem or clinical inertia? A narrative review

Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2018 May:139:203-220. doi: 10.1016/j.diabres.2018.03.006. Epub 2018 Mar 9.


Corticosteroids are widely diffused drugs. An important side effect is the impairment of glycemic control both in patients with known diabetes and in normoglycemic ones potentially leading to steroid-induced diabetes mellitus (SIDM). In this review based on papers released on PubMed, MEDLINE, and EMBASE from January 2015 to October 2017, we summarized and discussed main updates about the definition, the diagnosis, and the pathophysiology of steroid-induced hyperglycemia (SIH), with a look to new therapies. Main alterations responsible for the diabetogenic effect of corticosteroids are a negative impact on insulin sensitivity along with a derangement on insulin secretion, explaining the typical post-prandial hyperglycemia linked to the promotion of gluconeogenesis. An early and precise diagnosis of SIH and/or SIDM is necessary, but current criteria do not seem sensible enough. As an afterthought, the treatment should be reasoned and tailored according to proposed glycemic thresholds and patient comorbidities, choosing between antidiabetic oral drugs and insulin, the latter being preferable among hospitalized patients. SIDM and SIH are frequent problems, but often underdiagnosed due to old diagnostic criteria. Dedicated guidelines universally shared are mandatory in order to harmonize the treatment of these conditions, thus overtaking single therapeutic strategies mostly arising from literature.

Keywords: Complications; Corticosteroids; Diabetes; Glycemic variability; Steroid-induced hyperglycemia; Therapeutic strategy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Hyperglycemia / chemically induced*
  • Risk Factors
  • Steroids / adverse effects*


  • Steroids