The Arthritis-Diabetes Connection

arthritis and diabetesOsteoarthritis and inflammatory arthritis share symptoms, but are very different diseases. Osteoarthritis is caused
by wear and tear on the joints, and is usually found in older people.

Inflammatory arthritis refers to a group of autoimmune diseases, diseases in which the immune system attacks the body’s joints, and can occur at any age. Inflammatory arthritis diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis
and juvenile idiopathic arthritis, with rheumatoid arthritis being the most common.

(Want to know more about the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis? See our blog post, here.)

Surprisingly, while both types of arthritis are different from each other, they are both associated with type II diabetes. Nearly 50% of people with type II diabetes have arthritis, and 16% of people with arthritis have type II diabetes.

How is it that two different diseases, inflammatory arthritis and osteoarthritis, both have
a connection with diabetes, a third, completely different, disease?

Interestingly, each type of arthritis is related to diabetes in a different way.

Osteoarthritis and Diabetes

The way in which osteoarthritis causes diabetes is unclear scientifically, but the connection is definite.

As an American College of Rheumatology study showed, people with osteoarthritis in their hip or knee were significantly more likely to develop diabetes than those without osteoarthritis.

The study suggests that because osteoarthritis makes it painful to engage in physical activity — even in activity as light as walking — those who suffer from osteoarthritis are less physically active.

As a result, many people with osteoarthritis become overweight. Maintaining a normal weight and being physically active both have positive effects on the regulation of blood glucose levels. When a person is overweight and inactive, the stage is set for type II diabetes. Simply being overweight, in fact, is the greatest risk factor for type II diabetes.

Inflammatory Arthritis and Diabetes

People who suffer from the inflammatory arthritis diseases typically have high blood levels of pro-inflammatory proteins, like interleukin-6, as well as markers for inflammation, like C-reactive protein.

Those inflammatory molecules are also connected to type II diabetes.

Although the evidence is not certain, current medical knowledge finds that inflammation
is one of the causes of insulin resistance, a condition in which the body does not respond to the insulin produced by the pancreas. Insulin resistance is a common feature of prediabetes, a stepping-stone to full-blown type II diabetes.

In addition, like those suffering from osteoarthritis, people with inflammatory arthritis are also less able to get physical exercise, which can also result in overweight or obesity.

Moreover, some of the medications for inflammatory arthritis, especially corticosteroids, actually raise blood sugar levels, making type II diabetes even more likely. New treatments for inflammatory arthritis are replacing these medications, however, allowing those suffering from inflammatory arthritis to more easily avoid this risk factor.

The take away: whether you have osteoarthritis or inflammatory arthritis, you should
do everything you can to maintain a normal weight and to get
as much physical exercise as is possible. Arthritis is enough to deal with; there’s no reason
to add type II diabetes to the mix.

At Atlantic Coast Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Lakewood, NJ, we are experts in managing chronic conditions. Our staff of physicians, nurses, physical and occupational therapists, and nutritionists work together to make sure that all our residents receive the care they need to prevent their conditions from multiplying, and to maximize their enjoyment of life.

But don’t take our word for it. Read our reviews on,, and to hear what our residents and their families have to say.

Or better yet, come see for yourself: Contact us to schedule a tour by calling 732-364-7100, or by clicking here.

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