May 8, 2008 -- More than half of people with diabetes also suffer arthritis, CDC researchers
It's not just a problem for older people. Diabetes patients aged 18 to 44
have a 27.6% chance of having arthritis -- 2.5 times the 11% rate seen in the
Double Trouble - Arthritis & Diabetes
Lots of research focuses on a single medical condition, but many people have
more than one ailment. So a logical question is: How do these conditions affect
People with both diabetes and arthritis face special barriers to being
physically active, such as worry about aggravating or causing further joint
damage, and uncertainty about which activities are safe.
In the 45-64 age group, arthritis strikes 51.8% of people with diabetes and
36.4% of the general population. Arthritis afflicts 62.4% of diabetes patients
65 and older, vs. 56.2% of those without diabetes. The findings come from
nationwide telephone surveys conducted in 2005 and 2007.
The extent of the problem surprised the research team, says Charles Helmick,
MD, lead scientist for the CDC's arthritis program.
"We expected there would be these differences [in arthritis prevalence]
among older people, but there were very strong differences among younger
people, too," Helmick tells WebMD. "A lot of them had both arthritis
and diabetes -- as well as physical activity levels that were
not very high."
That's the crux of the issue. Exercise is particularly important for people
with diabetes. It's also extremely important for people with arthritis. Yet the
CDC study shows that when people with diabetes have arthritis, they are much
less likely to get the exercise they need to prevent both diseases from getting
People with diabetes don't always exercise as much as they should. More than
20% of people with diabetes are inactive. But 30% of people with both diabetes
and arthritis are inactive.
What's going on? Arthritis gives people with diabetes a new reason to
exercise. But it also creates new barriers to physical activity, Helmick
"In diabetes, we speculate, everybody has the usual barriers for not
being physically active: not having time, competing priorities, lack of
motivation, and so on," he says. "But when you have arthritis you have
special barriers on top of those. You don't know what activities are safe. And
you worry: 'Will exercise make my joint pain worse?' 'Will exercise harm my
Fortunately, simple activities such as walking, swimming, and bicycling are
friendly to arthritic joints -- and they are things most people can do. And
there's lots of help for people who need more specific advice, starting with
the CDC's arthritis web site (www.cdc.gov/arthritis/index.htm)
and including exercise programs developed by the Arthritis Foundation (www.arthritis.org/exercise-intro.php).
"People with diabetes and also arthritis should know they have a lot of
company," Helmick says. "More important, there are many ways for people
with diabetes to be more active -- even with arthritis. And it is going to have
benefits not only for their arthritis but for their diabetes as well."
Helmick and colleagues report the details of their study in the May 9 issue
of the CDC's MMWR: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
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