Insulinoma: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment
What is Insulinoma?
For people living with diabetes, insulin is utilized to help balance the blood sugar levels of the body. It is a significant type of hormone that regulates and stabilizes the glucose status of the body, thus, preventing more health complications associated with diabetes from happening.
Generally, insulin is produced in one major body organ, the pancreas. It is an elongated organ located in the abdomen. Aside from producing insulin, it releases juices needed for better digestion. While this body organ may be small and has great benefits to the body, it can also be affected by an abnormal benign known as a tumor. And this tumor is called insulinoma.
Insulinomas are small tumors appearing in the pancreas. It causes the production of excess insulin, eventually lowering the blood sugar levels within the body. When this occurs, it could lead to hypoglycemia, a severe medical concern involving a low blood glucose condition. Hypoglycemia can be dangerous as it can bring about major effects, such as lightheadedness and blurry vision.
While insulinomas can be hostile, it is not cancerous. It is not malignant, and there are ways to resolve this medical issue. Note that this tumor only happens rarely and does not spread. People who have been suffering from diabetes need to undergo an examination to know if they have active insulinoma in their pancreas. By doing so, immediate treatment is given to control the production of insulin in the body.
Symptoms of Insulinoma
Alongside the symptoms associated with diabetes, there are also signs and warnings linked to insulinoma. These symptoms may be classified according to their severity, whether it be mild or severe. The symptoms include the following:
- Blurry vision
- Increased hunger
- Rapid weight gain
- Episodes of seizures
- Irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty breathing
As mentioned, insulinomas do not spread to other organs. However, if this occurs for reasons unknown, you will likely experience the following symptoms:
- Severe pain in the abdomen
- Pain in the back
- Severe diarrhea
- Jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and skin)
Commonly, people who have developed this tumor will not experience any symptoms. However, if the symptoms emerge, they will experience the mentioned signs, but it will still depend on the frequency of the tumor. When the symptoms appear, contact your healthcare professional at once to get the necessary precautionary measures and also to get you checked if things get worse.
Commonly, during regular checkups for diabetic people, healthcare professionals will likely include the possibility of these individuals having insulinoma during the assessments. Since insulin is used to balance the levels of glucose in the body, healthcare professionals will test if the insulin levels are rightfully suitable to the patient.
To help diagnose someone having insulinoma, the healthcare professional will extract a blood sample from the patient and check for the blood sugar levels, as well as the insulin levels. When the result says that the level of glucose is low and the insulin level is high, it usually implies that an insulinoma tumor is active and existent within the pancreas.
Other than the blood sample and testing, an MRI or CT scan may be performed to confirm the initial diagnosis. It will help the healthcare professional to know the location and size of the tumor. Another way to prove the existence of the tumor is by doing an endoscopic ultrasound. Aside from knowing where the tumor is, a tissue sample of the tumor will be taken for further analysis and examination. Once a patient is proven to have an insulinoma, he/she will need to start the treatment immediately.
Causes of the Disease
There is no concrete explanation for why insulinomas appear on the pancreas. The reason for these tumors’ existence is unknown. They just emerge and cause harm to the pancreas without any sign.
Because of the lack of information with regards to the main causes of this disease, diabetic people are required to always consume their medicine to maintain the levels of their blood sugar. The consumption of diabetes medications will balance the right amount of glucose levels in the body and the production of insulin from the pancreas. Doing so will help patients live healthily amidst the massive impact of the disease.
Treatment and Prevention
The major treatment approach to get rid of this tumor is by removing it surgically. This operation involves the usage of Laparoscopic surgery, which functions by removing a small tumor from the pancreas. A small cut from the abdomen is made, and the laparoscope is inserted. This instrument has a camera in it which looks for the tumor and guides the surgeon in locating the insulinoma. Once located, the tumor is then removed carefully. There is a high accuracy rate for this approach, which eventually cures the said medical concern. The result of this method will be a complete recovery from the condition.
Aside from the availability of the mentioned type of surgery, the healthcare professional will prescribe another form of medication to stabilize and help manage the blood sugar levels. It only happens when the surgery isn’t effective in removing all the tumors glued on the pancreas.
Once the tumor has been removed, diabetic people can live normally and will not deal with the effects of the tumor. While some tumors reoccur because of the presence of other tumors that haven’t been removed, it needs more care and aid from the healthcare professional. It is exactly the reason why regular check-ups and continuous consumption of diabetes medications are necessary.
Note that stabilizing or balancing the blood sugar levels is essential, as it will not only prevent diabetes from surging but also inhibit the emergence of other health complications. Always take your daily dose. Pair up your daily medicines with a proper diet and regular exercise. Only by these ways, you can ultimately stop diabetes, and who knows, reduce your risk of having insulinoma.
Disclaimer: Please note that the contents of this community article are strictly for informational purposes and should not be considered as medical advice. This article, and other community articles, are not written or reviewed for medical validity by Canadian Insulin or its staff. All views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are not endorsed by Canadian Insulin. Always consult a medical professional for medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.