Anti-insulin antibody test

Anti-insulin antibody test measures the presence of antibodies against insulin.

How the test is performed
Adult or child:
Blood is drawn from a vein, usually from the inside of the elbow or the back of the hand. The puncture site is cleaned with antiseptic, and a tourniquet is placed around the upper arm to apply pressure and restrict blood flow through the vein. This causes veins below the tourniquet to fill with blood.

A needle is inserted into the vein, and the blood is collected in an air-tight vial or a syringe. The tourniquet is then removed to restore circulation. After blood has been collected the needle is removed, and the puncture site is covered to stop any bleeding.

Infant or young child:
The area is cleansed with antiseptic and punctured with a sharp needle or a lancet. The blood may be collected in a pipette (small glass tube), on a slide, onto a test strip, or into a small container. A bandage may be applied to the puncture site if there is any bleeding.

In the laboratory, a radioimmunoassay (a test that tags proteins making them visible for study) is performed on the sample.

How to prepare for the test
No special preparation is necessary.

Infants and children:
The preparation you can provide for this test depends on your child’s age, previous experiences, and level of trust. For general information regarding how you can prepare your child, see the following topics:

How the test will feel
When the needle is inserted to draw blood, some people feel moderate pain, while others feel only a prick or stinging sensation. Afterward, there may be some throbbing.

Why the test is performed
This test is performed if you are a diabetic and the insulin no longer seems to control your Diabetes, or you appear to have an allergic response to the insulin.

This test measures your immune system’s response to insulin and the different types of cells present. Your health care provider may use the test to confirm insulin resistance, or to investigate the cause of your insulin allergy.

Normal Values

Normally, antibodies against insulin are not present in your blood. Normal value ranges may vary slightly among different laboratories.

What abnormal results mean

If IgG and IgM antibodies against insulin are elevated, your body reacts as if the insulin is foreign - this may make insulin less effective or neutralize it. Also, the antibodies may change the amount of time the insulin takes to act, putting you at risk for low blood sugar. This means that the insulin cannot serve its intended function of moving glucose from the blood stream into the cells. As a result, increased levels of insulin are required for the same therapeutic effect. This phenomenon is called insulin resistance.

If the test shows elevated values of IgE antibody against insulin, then your body has developed an allergic response to the medication. This could put you at risk for skin reactions or more severe widespread reactions. Other medications such as antihistamines or low dose injectable steroids may help to lessen the reaction. If reactions have been severe, an in-hospital procedure called desensitization may be necessary.

What the risks are

Risks associated with venipuncture are slight:

  • Excessive bleeding  
  • Fainting or feeling lightheaded  
  • Hematoma (blood accumulating under the skin)  
  • Infection (a slight risk any time the skin is broken)  
  • Multiple punctures to locate veins

Special considerations

Veins and arteries vary in size from one patient to another and from one side of the body to the other. Obtaining a blood sample from some people may be more difficult than from others.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Martin A. Harms, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.