Half of diabetics have some form of arthritis

Christine Miller Health Guide
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published a new study, based on telephone survey data, which shows that about one half of all adults with diabetes also have some form of arthritis.  In other data, the CDC estimated that a little over 46 million people have arthritis and a little over 26 million people have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.  Those people 65 and older, according to the new study, were more likely to have both diabetes and arthritis, even though the overall connection of diabetes and arthritis was independent of age, sex and body mass index (BMI). 

     

    The report is based on information gathered from random telephone surveys conducted in 2005 and 2007.  The survey asked whether each participant had ever been diagnosed with diabetes or arthritis.  The surveyors did not ask people to distinguish what type of arthritis or diabetes they had been diagnosed with.  They also did not verify diagnoses by other means, such as medical record data.  Results of the report can be found on the CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr.

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    Type 2 diabetes is associated with obesity and is the most common form of the diesease.  Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, like rheumatoid arthritis, and is more often diagnosed in childhood or adolescence.  There are many forms of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis being the two most common. 

     

    The study also asked survey participants questions about exercise and physical activity.  The study found that about 30% of people with both diabetes and arthritis are inactive, compared with 21% who have diabetes alone and 17.3% who have arthritis alone.  Each of these statistics shows a much higher liklihood for inactivity than healthy people.  Data shows that just over 10% of healthy people are inactive.

     

    These statistics on exercise aren't surprising to me, but aren't good news either.  If type 2 diabetes is the most common form and it is associated with obesity, then it might not be shocking that to see that diabetics are less active than non-diabetics.  And the joint pain associated with arthritis can also be a barrier to exercise.  However, it would be interesting if the researchers would expand on this data to look more closely at the demographics and actual medical histories of individual participants.  It would be interesting to see whether the majority of people with both conditions have type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis and whether these people make up the 30% that are inactive.  Or perhaps people with RA are more likely to be inactive or to also have Type 1 diabetes?  It would also be interesting to see which disease was diagnosed first, or which presented symptoms first.  For example, if the people with Type 2 diabetes has arthritis first and diabetes was associated with years of inactivity or being overweight from inactivity, or whether they had diabetes first and developed symptoms of arthritis after years of inactivity and/or being overweight.

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    Either way, it does highlight the importance of exercise for both conditions.  Inactivity leads to obesity and both problems are proven to have a negative impact on blood sugar regulation and joint functioning.  For people with diabetes, regular physical activity helps control blood sugar and helps lower the risk of cardiovascular complications.  For people with arthritis, regular exercise reduces pain and imroves joint function - contrary to the old belief that activity deteriorates the joints.  So for the people with both conditions, or who are at high risk of developing both conditions, it is extra important to try to participate in low-impact activities like walking and swimming. 

Published On: May 27, 2008