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Rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes: The potential link

Rheumatoid arthritis concept.
Image credit: Aleksandr Davydov / 123rf

Those affected by rheumatoid arthritis are 23 percent more likely to also be affected by type-2 diabetes, research indicates.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a member of a category of rheumatic or musculoskeletal conditions which, as per the World Health Organization (WHO), encompasses “over 150 diseases and syndromes, which are usually progressive and associated with pain. They can broadly be categorised as joint diseases, physical disability, spinal disorders, and conditions resulting from trauma. Musculoskeletal conditions are leading causes of morbidity and disability, giving rise to enormous healthcare expenditures and loss of work.” 

In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, which the WHO identifies as being among “conditions with the greatest impact on society”, the condition “is a chronic systemic disease that affects the joints, connective tissues, muscle, tendons, and fibrous tissue. It tends to strike during the most productive years of adulthood, between the ages of twenty and forty, and is a chronic disabling condition often causing pain and deformity.” 

In India, rheumatoid arthritis affects an estimated 0.92 percent of the adult population. Diabetes, meanwhile, affects approximately 11.8 percent of Indians. This is according to the National Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy Survey, conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences’s Rajendra Prasad Centre for Ophthalmological Sciences.

The new research indicating a link between rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes is worthy of further consideration and investigation. Per ANI, the study, conducted by Zixing Tian and Dr Adrian Heald and their colleagues of the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, “may indicate that both diseases are linked to the body’s inflammatory response…inflammation has emerged as a key factor in the onset and progression of [type-2 diabetes], and [rheumatoid arthritis] is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease. The team suggests that the systemic inflammation associated with [rheumatoid arthritis] might therefore contribute to the risk of individuals developing diabetes in the future.”

The ANI report cites study authors as saying “this finding supports the notion that inflammatory pathways are involved in the pathogenesis of diabetes. We suggest that more intensive screening and management of diabetes risk factors should be considered in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Agents that reduce systemic inflammatory marker levels may have a role in preventing type 2 diabetes. This may involve focusing on more than one pathway at a time.”

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