It is well known that glucocorticoids induce insulin resistance, but the exact time scale in humans is not well known. The aim of the study was to determine the time scale of effects of pharmacologic doses of glucocorticoids on insulin sensitivity. Subjects were treated with repeated methylprednisolone infusions and oral prednisone for Graves' orbitopathy. Insulin sensitivity was determined using euglycemic hyperinsulinemic clamp (EHGC) before, during the first glucocorticoid infusion and after 2 months of treatment. EHGC started 2 h after the start of the glucocorticoid infusion, and lasted for 2 h. In another group of patients, insulin sensitivity was determined by short insulin tolerance test (SITT) before and during the first glucocorticoid infusion. SITT started 15 min after the start of the glucocorticoid infusion and lasted for 15 min. Ten subjects were included in each protocol. All were euthyroid during the study period. Four hours after the start of the glucocorticoid infusion significant reduction of insulin sensitivity was observed, which did not change for a further 2 months of glucocorticoid treatment [before 7.82 (95% confidence interval (CI) 5.35-10.29), first infusion, 4.93 (95% CI 2.99-6.87), after 2 months 5.36 (95%CI 3.91-6.81) mg/kg/min]. No significant change in insulin sensitivity occurred during the first 30 min of glucocorticoid infusion [before 139.7 (95%CI 94.1-185.3), during 146.7 (95%CI 106.3-187.1) mumol/l/min]. In humans, glucocorticoid- induced insulin resistance develops quickly, in about 4 h, and does not change during further glucocorticoid treatment.