The RA-Diabetes Connection

What do diabetes and arthritis have in common? Plenty

New research shows that people with diagnosed diabetes are nearly twice as likely to have arthritis - about 53 percent of people with diabetes also have arthritis. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, as is rheumatoid arthritis (RA). In people with type 1 diabetes, the bod's immune system attacks the pancreas, the organ where insulin is made, much in the same way it attacks the synovial lining of the joints in RA. Levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-1 (IL-1), which are often high in people with rheumatoid arthritis, are also increased in those with type 1 diabetes.

If you have both arthritis and diabetes, you probably take different treatments for them. You probably see different doctors for them too. But fortunately the lifestyle changes you make such as eating smaller portions of healthy foods and walking daily are an important part of your treatment that works for both conditions. Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce or use the hormone insulin sufficiently. Insulin shuttles glucose from foods you eat or drink into cells, so it can be converted into energy. Without insulin, glucose remains in your blood (raising blood glucose levels), your cells create less energy and you feel fatigued. What starts off as a hormonal problem can evolve into joint problems, in addition to the widely known cardiovascular problems. Diabetes causes musculoskeletal changes that lead to symptoms such as joint pain and stiffness; swelling; nodules under the skin, particularly in the fingers; tight, thickened skin; trigger finger; carpal tunnel syndrome; painful shoulders; and severely affected feet. (See Foot Notes) After having had diabetes for several years, joint damage called diabetic arthropathy can occur. Having arthritis does not mean you'll develop diabetes, or vice versa, but taking good care of your health with one might mean staving off or minimizing the other.