Inhaled steroids may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes

Patients who take inhaled steroids for conditions like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) may be at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to new researcher from Jewish General Hospital researchers.

Writing in the American Journal of Medicine, researchers said that these drugs are extremely effective at reducing the symptoms of respiratory disorders, and the benefits generally outweigh the risks. However, after examining the medical records of more than 400,000 patients who had been treated with inhaled steroids, they found that the rates of diabetes were much higher than the general population.

Samy Suissa, who led the investigation, said that higher doses of the medication, such as those prescribed to COPD patients, appeared to increase the risk even more sharply, and cautioned physicians from overusing inhaled steroids.

"We recommend that physicians reserve the use of inhaled steroids for the patients who truly benefit from these medications, namely asthmatics, and curb their use in COPD to the few patients for whom they are indicated," Suissa said. "In all cases, patients using high doses should be assessed for possible hyperglycemia and the lowest effective dose targeted."

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