How Glucocorticoids Effect Blood Sugar

Medications known as glucocorticoids, such as prednisone and cortisone, are mainly used as anti-inflammatories or as anti-rejection drugs. They are prescribed, for example, for an arthritis attack or after an organ transplant.

One of their side effects is to increase blood glucose (sugar) since these drugs promote glucose production in the liver and reduce the sensitivity of the cells to insulin. Consequently, glucose accumulates in the blood and can cause a rise in blood sugar levels. The side-effects vary from person to person based on the prescribed dose of glucocorticoids, the way it is administered (cream, tablets or injection), and the length of time a person takes the drug.

If you are taking glucocorticoids, measure your blood sugar more often than usual in order to monitor the drug’s impact on your diabetes control. It may be necessary to talk to your doctor to adjust your antidiabetes medication or your insulin dosage to maintain normal blood-glucose levels. When glucocorticoids treatment is over, blood glucose levels usually return to normal within a few days.

Note: It is essential that the termination of glucocorticoids be supervised by a health professional.

Research and text: Amélie Roy-Fleming , Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator

Scientific review: Louise Tremblay, nurse, M. Ed.

September 2014