What Is Steroid-Induced Diabetes?

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

Diabetes mellitus, also known simply as diabetes, is a serious medical condition that involves high blood sugar levels. Steroid-induced diabetes is just what it sounds like—diabetes brought on by taking steroid medications. These medications treat other medical conditions, such as autoimmune diseases, but can have side effects that interfere with how the body responds to insulin and regulates glucose. This can bring on diabetes or make diabetes worse in people who already have it.

Learn about steroid-induced diabetes, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, and more.

Diabetic kit and medical supplies

Types of Diabetes

The two main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction when the immune system attacks healthy cells and prevents the pancreas from making enough insulin to control blood sugar levels. Type 2 diabetes is most common and caused by challenges to how the body processes food, leading to high blood sugar levels. While some people are at an increased risk, anyone can be affected by these types.

Other types of diabetes, like steroid-induced diabetes, affect certain groups, in this case, people taking steroid medications.

Steroid-Induced Diabetes Symptoms

Similar to other types of diabetes, steroid-induced diabetes has symptoms related to high blood sugar levels.

Symptoms of diabetes and high blood sugar may include:

  • Dry mouth or extreme thirst
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Intense or frequent hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Vision changes or blurry vision

Not everyone with diabetes has symptoms, so it's important for people at an increased risk to get tested. Anyone taking steroid medications, especially for a long time, is at an increased risk of developing steroid-induced diabetes.


Steroids can interfere with how the body processes glucose and responds to insulin, a hormone that decreases blood sugar levels. This leads to higher blood glucose levels.

Steroid-induced diabetes can affect people not previously considered at risk of developing diabetes before taking steroids, especially those taking higher doses or who are on the medications for a longer time.


Like other types of diabetes, a diagnosis of steroid-induced diabetes involves a blood test to measure blood sugar levels.

More specifically, steroid-induced diabetes testing may include:

  • Fasting blood glucose test: Measures blood sugar levels after at least eight hours without food.
  • Oral glucose tolerance test: Compares blood sugar levels after fasting for eight hours with levels taken two hours after drinking a specific sugary drink.
  • HbA1C test: Considers two or three months of data to determine average blood sugar levels.
  • Random plasma glucose test: Used for people with high blood sugar symptoms (with or without fasting).

Sometimes, multiple tests may be required to confirm a diabetes diagnosis.


Steroid-induced diabetes can be treated by taking insulin medication. However, the treatment of steroid-induced diabetes may depend on the person, the severity of their diabetes, the benefits and risks of their steroid medication, and other factors.

For example, some people with steroid-induced diabetes may not be treated for diabetes but monitored to ensure it doesn't get worse. Other people may stop taking the steroid medications that lead to diabetes to reverse the diagnosis.


Diabetes, including steroid-induced diabetes, is a treatable condition. Medications to lower blood sugar levels are available to manage diabetes while a person is taking steroids. After they stop taking the steroid medication that led to the diagnosis, the condition generally goes away. Additionally, there are lifestyle changes that people with steroid-induced diabetes can make to help manage it.


Like other types of diabetes, managing this condition often includes lifestyle changes such as exercising and making dietary changes. Since people with excess weight or obesity are at an increased risk, a treatment plan usually includes weight loss.

Lifestyle changes to cope with diabetes may include:

  • Eating the right portion sizes
  • Choosing healthy, nutrient-dense foods
  • Avoiding sugary and processed foods and alcohol
  • Increasing physical activity
  • Tracking body weight and blood sugar levels


Steroid-induced diabetes is a type of diabetes that is caused by taking steroid medications. These medications interfere with how the body responds to insulin and regulates glucose, leading to high blood sugar levels. Symptoms are the same as those of other types of diabetes and may include extreme thirst or hunger, tiredness, and the need to pee frequently.

Blood tests to check glucose levels are used to diagnose steroid-induced diabetes. The treatment for this condition may include taking medications to control blood sugar levels, stopping the steroid medication causing the problem, and making lifestyle changes, such as in nutrition and exercise.

A Word From Verywell

Suspecting, being diagnosed with, and managing steroid-induced diabetes can be challenging, especially since it involves experiencing multiple medical conditions at the same time. This condition is treatable, and help is available. If you or someone you know is facing steroid-induced diabetes or another type of diabetes, reach out to a healthcare professional for support.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can steroid-induced diabetes be reversed?

    Yes, steroid-induced diabetes can be reversed. The condition generally goes away once the steroid medication that leads to diabetes is discontinued. Medications to control blood sugar levels and lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise can also help.

  • What causes steroid-induced diabetes?

    Steroid-induced diabetes is caused by taking steroid medications that interfere with how the body responds to insulin and regulates glucose. Certain things may increase the risk of steroids leading to diabetes, such as having excess weight or being obese.

  • Is steroid-induced diabetes type 2 diabetes?

    Steroid-induced diabetes is similar to type 2 diabetes. However, it is caused by taking steroid medications. People at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes and who take steroid medications are at an increased risk of developing steroid-induced diabetes.

12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is diabetes?

  2. Kim SY, Yoo CG, Lee CT, et al. Incidence and risk factors of steroid-induced diabetes in patients with respiratory diseaseJ Korean Med Sci. 2011;26(2):264-267. doi:10.3346/jkms.2011.26.2.264

  3. Hwang JL, Weiss RE. Steroid-induced diabetes: a clinical and molecular approach to understanding and treatmentDiabetes Metab Res Rev. 2014;30(2):96-102. doi:10.1002/dmrr.2486

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Type 1 diabetes.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Type 2 diabetes.

  6. National Health Service. Steroid induced diabetes.

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes symptoms.

  8. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease. Symptoms and causes of diabetes.

  9. American Diabetes Association. Diagnosis.

  10. Fève B, Scheen AJ. When therapeutic drugs lead to diabetesDiabetologia. 2022;65(5):751-762. doi:10.1007/s00125-022-05666-w

  11. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes risk factors.

  12. Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Diabetes nutrition and exercise.

By Ashley Olivine, Ph.D., MPH
Dr. Ashley Olivine is a health psychologist and public health professional with over a decade of experience serving clients in the clinical setting and private practice. She has also researched a wide variety psychology and public health topics such as the management of health risk factors, chronic illness, maternal and child wellbeing, and child development.