Your diabetes and arthritis

At an international conference in Berlin late last year, a study on diabetes and arthritis revealed some interesting links. The study looked at the likelihood of osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis in people living with diabetes compared to those with no diabetes.

Although the increased risks looked high, it may be a case of asking what was first: the arthritis or the diabetes? In some cases, the pain from arthritis causes restricted exercise thereby increasing the risk of diabetes. Let’s look at the three main items reported.

Osteoarthritis is a common chronic joint disease, causing disability, pain and mild inflammation of the tissues in and around the joints involving damage to cartilage and bony growths that develop around the edge of the joints. Osteoarthritis is linked with a higher body mass index BMI (weight above recommended targets). This study revealed that people living with diabetes had a higher average BMI. What we know is diabetes is also linked with higher BMI. What may also happen is the pain from osteoarthritis may be reducing your physical activity. We know that reduced physical activity decreases your ability to manage your diabetes and increases the risk of getting type 2 diabetes.

Osteoporosis is a common disease, which makes bones become brittle. This increases your risk of breaks. Osteoporosis occurs when bones lose minerals, such as calcium, more quickly than the body can replace them, causing a loss of bone thickness (bone density or mass). There was no reason for the increases in likelihood in those living with diabetes besides age. The likelihood of osteoporosis increases once we go through menopause as the reduction of hormones reduces bone density. Although the risk is higher of having osteoporosis with diabetes is higher, the overall number of people with osteoporosis is seven times lower than those with osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes pain and swelling of the joints. Your body’s immune system is designed to fight infections; however, in rheumatoid arthritis it targets the lining of the joints, causing inflammation and joint damage. Some of the treatments for rheumatoid arthritis include steroid medications. We know that apart from elevating your blood glucose levels when you have diabetes, these medications increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. These two facts explain the increase in rheumatoid arthritis in those people living with diabetes.

It was interesting to see that the report showed an increase in reports of neck and back pain that didn’t match the increased likelihood of arthritis. What we know is that any form of arthritis contributes to painful movement and reduces your likelihood of physical activity. This fact, by itself, increases the chances of a person developing type 2 diabetes.

The facts:

  • In all three types of arthritis, tailored physical activity decreases pain and increases function.
  • In diabetes, physical activity will improve your diabetes management. Your blood glucose levels decrease and the insulin your body makes works better if you exercise.
  • Physical activity works to decrease body weight or keep body weight in a healthy range. Keeping a healthy weight will improve arthritis symptoms and improve your diabetes management
  • You can visit an exercise physiologist to tailor a physical activity plan to achieve this. The exercise physiologist can be part of your diabetes team through a diabetes management plan with your doctor.

So let’s get moving! Make sure if you are starting any physical activity to get the right advice from your doctor and an exercise physiologist. For more information about this or general enquiries, please contact us on 1300 136 588.

By Donna Itzstein, Diabetes Qld Pharmacist

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