Could Diabetes and Asthma Be a Double Whammy?

  • Asthma is a chronic illness that affects more than 7 million children in the United States. Diabetes affects around 215,000 children, most of whom have type 1 diabetes, which like asthma is associated with immune system malfunctioning. About 11 percent of those kids with diabetes also have asthma.


    A recent study raises questions as to whether there might be some kind of link between these two chronic illnesses and their treatments.


    The Study


    The study, which was published in the October 2011 issue of Pediatrics journal, and led by Mary Helen Black of Kaiser Permanente Southern California, theorizes that the inflammation present in untreated asthma in kids could make it harder to control their blood sugar levels.

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    Researchers looked at close to 1,700 children who were diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and 311 who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes over a 3 year period between 2002 and 2005. They found that between 10 to 16 percent of those children also had asthma.


    Findings: The kids in the study who had type 1 diabetes and asthma were 37 percent more likely to have poor blood sugar control than to have good blood sugar control, when they were compared to kids who did not have asthma.


    Therefore, researchers concluded that kids who have both asthma and type 1 diabetes are more likely to have trouble controlling their diabetes. They did not find the same suggestions of a link in kids with type 2 diabetes, but that sample size was also much smaller.


    Researchers went on to report that kids who had satisfactory asthma control due to treatment with leukotriene modifiers such as Singulair, Accolate and Zyflo exhibited much better diabetes control as well. From that, they concluded that the use of asthma medications had a significant impact on blood sugar control.


    On the Other Hand...


    Dr. Juan Celedon, chief of service, division of pediatric pulmonology, allergy and immunology at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh shed doubt on the study described above though. He stated that there was little biological basis for such conclusions, noting that children who take such asthma medicines are also more likely to be insured and to have better healthcare.


    He went on to point out that study data was not adjusted for socioeconomic status, race and other factors that could affect outcomes independent of diagnosis.


    So What's Next?


    If nothing else, this research raises some interesting questions about a connections between chronic immune system diseases in children. We do know that conditions such as GERD and obesity are related to poor asthma control.


    It seems to me that it's not such a stretch to think there might be other disease-related links as well. What has your experience been with a possible relationship between asthma control and diabetes control?

Published On: October 12, 2011