Arthritis, a disease affecting joints, can significantly increase the chances of the glucose metabolism disorder diabetes in patients, says a new study published online in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.
Patients suffering from the autoimmune forms of arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and psoriatic arthritis have as much as 50 percent higher risk in getting diabetes.
To establish the link between arthritis and diabetes, researchers examined medical records of patients affected with arthritis in British Columbia, Canada, collected between 1996 and 2006.
On comparing the data on 48,718 RA patients, 40,346 patients with psoriatic arthritis or psoriasis and 442,033 patients who had no known rheumatic diseases, researchers found that the relative risk for diabetes was increased by approximately 50 percent in patients with RA or psoriatic arthritis compared to people who didn’t have these diseases.
“With psoriatic arthritis, it’s been known there’s an increased risk of diabetes, so in some respects, our psoriatic cohort was our positive control group. Finding the increased risk in psoriatics confirmed that our method was sound,” said Daniel Solomon MD, from the Division of Rheumatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who authored the study.
The researchers classified the patients as diabetic if they had been prescribed at least one diabetic medication or received a diagnosis of diabetes.
For people suffering from RA or psoriatic arthritis, the risk of getting diabetes increases with age and body mass index, Dr Solomon noted.
The reason why people with autoimmune arthritis is not known. In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system starts attacking the joints and other organs, instead of defending them. If the organ that’s attacked is the pancreas, where insulin is made, it can affect the production of insulin leading to diabetes, the researchers think.
But it is worthwhile for doctors to ask the question if patients with RA may have diabetes and to screen for it, Dr Solomon said.