Diabetes and Arthritis

If you have diabetes and arthritis, you may wonder if these two are related. Both diabetes and arthritis are chronic diseases. As you age, your chances of having chronic diseases increases. Also, as we get older, many of us tend to gain more weight. This extra weight adds stress on your joints, which can lead to inflammation and can lead to arthritis.


There is more than one type of diabetes and there is more than one type of arthritis. As you may know, the two main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. The two main types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis are both auto-immune diseases Such diseases involve your body fighting against  the other substances present in 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 not being active. 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 that can lead to diabetes.


The medicines you take for arthritis are used to reduce the inflammation, swelling, and pain. Some of these medicines can raise your blood glucose levels though so be sure to ask your healthcare provider which medicine is best for you.

  • Steroids, such as prednisone, can bring out a form of type 2 diabetes called chemical diabetes or steroid-induced diabetes. Steroids do not really cause diabetes, but they can bring it out early in people at risk.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium and COX-2 inhibitors such as Celebrex are used to lessen pain, but may lower blood glucose levels to unsafe levels if you are not careful to watch your blood glucose levels during treatment.

Although the medicines listed above for arthritis can affect your blood glucose levels, such levels will likely go back to your “normal” levels once you decrease or stop the medicine. Therefore, if you have the form of diabetes brought on by steroids, it may go away once you stop taking steroids, but will be at risk for diabetes in the future.

Whenever you take medication, remember to keep an eye on all your numbers, not just your blood glucose. Make sure to know your weight, your blood pressure, and the lab reports of your kidney function since some arthritis medicines can cause ulcers and bleeding as well as affect your heart and your kidneys causing swelling and increased blood pressure.


  1. Make sure to eat healthy and never 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. A positive outlook helps you manage both your diabetes and your arthritis.
  4. Take your medicines as prescribed and watch out for side effects. A rule of thumb is to never stop taking them cold turkey, even if you are having side effects or your blood glucose level goes up. You need to stop taking these medicines little by little and call you healthcare provider if you are having problems so they can advise you how to taper your dose.
  5. Physical activity. Staying active can help lower your blood glucose and reduce the stiffness from arthritis. Work with your healthcare provider to design a plan of action to keep you active while still being safe about your diabetes and your joints.


Reviewed and updated by Di Bush, PhD

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