Both diabetes and arthritis are chronic diseases. As you age, your chances for having chronic diseases increases. As we get older, most of us also tend to get heavier. This extra weight can put a lot of stress on your joints.
If you have diabetes and arthritis, you may have wondered if they are related. The answer is, “It depends.” Whether diabetes and arthritis are related depends on your age, the type of diabetes you have, the kind of arthritis you have, your lifestyle and the medicines and/or supplements you take.
Types of Arthritis
There is more than one type of diabetes and there is more than one type of arthritis. As you already know, the two main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. The two main types of arthritis are osteoarthritis (degenerative) and rheumatoid arthritis.
Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are both auto-immune diseases, meaning your body fights against another part of your body. In the case of type 1 diabetes, your body destroys the cells that make insulin. With rheumatoid arthritis, your body fights the linings of your joints. Both type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are more common among younger people.
Type 2 diabetes is related to aging, being overweight and being sedentary. Degenerative arthritis, or osteoarthritis, is also related to getting older and being overweight, which results in inflammation of the joints. Inflammation is the pain, redness and swelling that occurs when you have an injury or infection. Inflammation can raise blood glucose levels—leading to diabetes.
The medicines you take for arthritis are used to reduce inflammation, swelling and pain. Some of these medicines increase insulin resistance and can raise your blood glucose levels. Steroids such as prednisone can “bring out” type 2 diabetes. This is sometimes called chemical diabetes or steroid-induced diabetes. Steroids do not really cause diabetes, but they can bring it out earlier in people who are at risk.
Some other medicines used to fight inflammation are called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These include ibuprophen and naproxen sodium. Another class of medications used to fight inflammation is called COX-2 inhibitors. This includes Celebrex (celecoxib). If you take steroids for the pain and swelling of arthritis, your blood glucose is likely to increase. Usually, when you decrease or stop your medicine, your numbers will return to where they were before you started taking the medicine. So if your diabetes was brought on by steroids, your diabetes may go away if you stop taking them. However, you will be at risk for diabetes in the future. If you are taking NSAIDs or COX-2s, you need to keep a close eye on your blood glucose. Because pain also can raise your blood glucose, pain relief may cause your blood glucose to come down. Whenever you take medication, remember to keep an eye on all of your numbers, not just your blood glucose. Make sure to know your weight, your blood pressure and the lab reports of your kidney function. Besides giving you some relief, some arthritis medications can cause ulcers and bleeding and can affect your heart and your kidneys, causing swelling and increased blood pressure—especially if you have diabetes.
Many people who have arthritis take the supplement glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, or a combination of both to improve joint health. Before taking a supplement, you should first talk with your healthcare provider to discuss what effect they may have on your diabetes care regimen.
Managing Diabetes and Arthritis
When you are stiff and in pain from your arthritis, it may be hard to do all of the things you want to do to care for your diabetes. Just getting up in the morning can be hard. The hassle and costs of healthcare visits and taking medicines for both illnesses can seem like a lot to deal with. Just remember that high blood glucose levels increase your sense of pain. Being physically active and losing weight can help reduce the pain, as well as your glucose level. Therefore, taking care of your diabetes may also help you manage your arthritis.
5 TIPS TO HELP YOU MANAGE YOUR ARTHRITIS ALONG WITH YOUR DIABETES
- Diet. Make sure to eat healthy and don’t skip meals. The medicines you take for arthritis are hard on your stomach. You will have less stomach upset if you take the medicines with meals.
- Weight. If you are overweight, losing even 5 to 10 percent of your weight can lower your blood glucose and can make things easier on your joints.
- Attitude. It is common to be depressed when you have diabetes and when you are in pain. Steroids can cause or increase depression. Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you have any signs of depression.
- Medicines. Take your medicines and supplements as prescribed. Watch out for interactions. An important safety rule for arthritis medicines is never to stop taking them suddenly, even if you are having side effects or your blood glucose level goes up. You need to stop taking these medicines gradually. Call you healthcare provider if you are having problems and ask how to taper your dose.
- Physical activity. Exercise can help lower your blood glucose and reduce the stiffness from arthritis. Work with your healthcare provider to design an activity plan that is safe for both your diabetes and your joints.