People with diabetes are significantly more likely to have both forms of arthritis and osteoporosis, a study has revealed.
Danish researchers, who presented their findings at a major diabetes conference in Germany, examined data from around 109,000 people.
They found diabetics face a 70 per cent higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis, a whole-body illness in which the immune system attacks the joints.
And their risk of osteoarthritis, where cartilage breaks down, and the bone-wasting condition osteoporosis was 33 and 29 per cent higher, respectively.
Chronic swelling in the joints which can be caused by – or cause – both diabetes and arthritis is thought to be the link between the two illnesses.
Experts fear the pain of arthritis could put people off exercise and worsen their diabetes, creating a vicious cycle which could, in turn, make the arthritis worse.
The Nordsjaellands University Hospital in Hillerød findings were presented at the annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Berlin.
Most of the 9,238 diabetic people in the study were assumed to have type 2 diabetes because they were over 40 and more likely to be overweight.
Both diabetes and arthritis are common – more than 422 million people around the world are living with diabetes and 350 million have arthritis.
Researchers say inflammation – unhealthy swelling of tissues inside the body – can be caused by, or be a cause of, diabetes and may also trigger the skeletal illnesses.
Steroid treatments given to treat arthritis may also contribute to type 2 diabetes because they affect the body’s ability to absorb glucose or use insulin.
Type 2 diabetes and the bone conditions could be linked, too, and the researchers suggest having either raises the risk of the other.
Study author Dr Stig Molsted said: ‘It’s likely the chronic pain experienced by people with arthritis may be a barrier to exercising, which is also a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
‘Health care professionals should make patients with diabetes aware that regular exercise is a recognised treatment for diabetes and arthritis, and can have positive effects on both blood sugar control as well as musculoskeletal pain.’
People with diabetes were found to be 27 per cent more likely to say they had back pain, and 29 per cent more likely to have pain in their shoulder or neck.
But people who were more physically active reported less pain than those who didn’t exercise – suggesting that activity is key to avoiding joint problems.