Is There A Link Between Lupus And Diabetes?

Lupus and diabetes are two medical conditions that affect the body in different ways. Lupus is an autoimmune disease that can cause inflammation in different body parts, including the skin, joints, kidneys, and other organs, per the Mayo Clinic. Diabetes, on the other hand, is a metabolic disorder that affects how the body processes blood sugar (glucose) and can lead to high blood sugar levels.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Type 2 occurs when the body's cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, and the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin.

Although lupus and diabetes are very different, studies suggest that there may be a link between the two conditions. Since both conditions involve the immune system (as noted by Johns Hopkins Medicine), they may have some shared risk factors. However, their relationship is complex, and more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms involved.

The link between insulin resistance and lupus

Some research suggests that people with the most common kind of lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE) may have a slightly increased risk of developing diabetes. A 2022 study published in the journal Medicine found that people who had recently been diagnosed with SLE had a 22% higher chance of getting type 2 diabetes within three years. According to the study, the exact cause of this increased risk is not yet fully understood, but it may be due to shared risk factors, as well as insulin resistance.

In people with insulin resistance, the body's cells don't respond well to insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps regulate blood sugar levels, per the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). People with SLE may be more likely to develop insulin resistance, which may lead to diabetes.

Research from a 2017 study published in the journal Clinical and Experimental Rheumatology suggests that insulin resistance also increases the risk of cardiovascular disease in people with lupus.

Some lupus medications may increase the risk of diabetes

Medications such as corticosteroids are commonly used to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system in people with lupus. However, they may also contribute to insulin resistance.

A 2022 study published in the journal Medicine found that corticosteroids like glucocorticoids may cause appetite increase and weight gain. According to the study, these factors can contribute to insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

Some other medications used to treat lupus, such as antimalarials like hydroxychloroquine, have not been shown to increase the risk of diabetes or insulin resistance. Interestingly, antimalarials might actually help decrease the risk of diabetes, as suggested in this 2021 study published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

The above studies highlight the importance of managing insulin resistance and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, which is an important part of health and well-being. Exercise, a healthy diet, and weight control can all help reduce the risk of diabetes. Patients with lupus may also want to get screened for diabetes at least once a year.