Diabetes is an autoimmune disease as well as a metabolic disorder. It is common to have other autoimmune diseases when you have diabetes. Learn more about these diseases such as hypothyroidism and arthritis.
- Your immune system is a network of organs and cells that defend your body from foreign invaders and germs. An autoimmune disease causes your body to attack normal cells by mistake. Other cells fail to keep your immune system in line. It is an attack on your own body that affects certain body parts based on the type of disease.
- Autoimmune diseases can strike anyone. Some people are at a greater risk including women of childbearing age, people who are exposed to certain environmental elements, people with a family history and people of certain ethnic backgrounds and races. Type 1 diabetes is one of the most common autoimmune diseases and there are over 80 others. People with diabetes are more likely to develop certain autoimmune diseases.
- People with type 1 diabetes, especially young women, are susceptible to developing hypothyroidism. The female to male ratio for hypothyroidism is 9:1. In many instances, hypothyroidism occurs when hyperglycemia worsens. Also when hypothyroidism occurs your blood sugars can be elevated (due to your low thyroid). Hypothyroidism is low activity of the thyroid gland. Maintaining proper blood sugar levels is essential. Symptoms may include fatigue, weight gain, loss of hair, being cold all the time, edema and paleness. If you experience these symptoms, let your doctor know.
- Hyperthyroidism is often associated with poor glycemic control and the need for increased insulin. It causes hyperactivity of the thyroid gland which can lead to increased metabolism and a rapid heartbeat. People with diabetes are also more susceptible to heart disease, making hyperthyroidism even riskier. Use a blood pressure machine at home and report any irregularities to your doctor.
- Rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes are linked by inflammation and insulin resistance. People with arthritis might lead sedentary lives due to the pain, causing them to gain weight and be at a higher risk of developing diabetes. Certain drugs can increase the risk of diabetes for people who have rheumatoid arthritis. For example, steroids can elevate blood sugar levels. Regular exercise, a proper diet, weight management and monitoring your blood sugar helps you maintain better health. If you experience pain in your joints, discuss it with your doctor.
- Autoimmune diseases are treated rather than cured. Treatment depends on the disease you have and the severity of your symptoms. Treatments can relieve symptoms and suppress the activity of the immune system. Some treatments also replace vital substances you body can no longer make on its own, such as insulin for people with diabetes. Other therapies might be beneficial such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, vocational therapy and a counselor for emotional support.
Be aware of the symptoms of other autoimmune diseases when you have diabetes. Monitor your blood sugar levels and blood pressure on a regular basis. Discuss any problems with your diabetes care team right away.