Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in the United States and is a barrier to physical activity. Recent research has suggested that arthritis may also increase the risk of diabetes. Some medications for treating arthritis can also decrease insulin sensitivity, thereby increasing diabetes risk. Physical activity is an important component of both diabetes and arthritis prevention and management.
Gaining a Better Understanding of Arthritis Impact
In a study published in Diabetes Care, my colleagues and I examined cross-sectional data from the National Health Interview Survey. We wanted to gain a better understanding of the burden and impact of arthritis among older adults with diabetes. By learning more about how these disease states are intertwined, clinicians can make informed decisions when selecting interventions so that they’re utilized appropriately. This data may also help with advancing policy and guidelines to ensure better delivery of healthcare.
According to the Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network (RASN), almost 50% of people with diabetes have arthritis and about 25% have arthritis-attributable activity limitation (AAAL). For people without diabetes, about 20% have arthritis and about 8% have AAAL. Our findings further support that arthritis among adults with diabetes significantly limits physical activity. Many are unable to realize the benefits of physical activity in managing their diabetes and preventing diabetes-related complications.
The Effect of Arthritis on Diabetes Management
Although it has already been established that arthritis is common among adults, our analysis sheds light on the effect of arthritis on physical activity limitation among those with both conditions. We hope our research will help clinicians and patients become aware that arthritis is a substantial barrier to physical activity and that it may limit how diabetes is managed and how diabetic complications are prevented. Our data may stimulate efforts by clinicians to promote physical activity in ways that are suitable to people with both conditions.
In future research, efforts are needed to learn more about specific types and amounts of physical activity that can benefit people living with both arthritis and diabetes. Research is also needed to discover whether arthritis influences the future development of diabetes among adults at high risk for the disease, especially those with pre-diabetes. Current estimates suggest that 79 million American adults aged 20 or older have prediabetes. Considering that physical activity is an important part of lifestyle interventions, understanding any effects of arthritis