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    What Is an Insulinoma?

    An insulinoma is a tumor of the pancreas. That’s the organ that makes the hormone insulin, which controls your blood sugar.

    Normally, the pancreas makes more insulin when your blood sugar is high and less when those levels drop. But when you have an insulinoma, the tumor will keep making insulin even when your blood sugar gets too low.

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    These tumors are usually small (less than an inch), and almost all of them are not cancer. In most cases, surgery can cure the problem.


    Because these tumors make too much insulin, they can cause symptoms of low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia. You could have:

    Hypoglycemia can be dangerous. If your blood sugar drops very low, you could faint or go into a coma.

    Hypoglycemia is common in people with diabetes. It often happens because they took too much of their medicine, missed a meal, or got more exercise than usual, all of which can lower blood sugar. An insulinoma can also cause hypoglycemia when you haven’t eaten in a while, but it can happen at any time.

    What Causes an Insulinoma?

    It’s not clear why some people get these tumors. Women are slightly more likely to have them than men, and most people get them between ages 40 and 60. You’re also more likely to have an insulinoma if you have certain genetic diseases, including:

    Getting a Diagnosis

    It can be tough for doctors to diagnose an insulinoma. Its symptoms are the same as other common health problems. It may take time before your doctor can find it.

    To find out if you have an insulinoma, your doctor will need to confirm:

    • You have symptoms of low blood sugar, especially after not eating or heavy exercise
    • Your blood sugar is actually low when you have those symptoms
    • Your symptoms go away after your blood sugar goes up

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