Image courtesy

More than 50 percent of diabetic Americans also have arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

The findings come from a telephone survey analyzed by the CDC and reported in the May 9 issue of its “MMWR: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.”

In a blog posting, Wall Street Journal reporter Scott Hensley writes, “Arthritis, broadly defined to include rheumatic conditions such as gout and lupus, was more common in diabetics than people without diabetes, regardless of sex or age.”

Hensley asks: Is there a link?

“We don’t have any evidence that diabetes causes arthritis or that arthritis causes diabetes,” Chad Helmick, medical epidemiologist for the arthritis program at CDC, told Hensley. “Arthritis is very common among people with diabetes, even the young.

“We don’t know why there is an association.”

Nevertheless, the association appears to exist: diabetic sufferers aged 18-44, for instance, have a 250 percent greater chance of having arthritis than the general population (27.6 percent compared to 11 percent), WebMD reports.

Though not necessarily the initial cause, lack of exercise aides the diseases in grabbing a firm hold.

“Exercise is particularly important for people with diabetes. It’s also extremely important for people with arthritis,” Daniel DeNoon writes for WebMD. “Yet the CDC study shows that when people with diabetes have arthritis, they are much less likely to get the exercise they need to prevent both diseases from getting worse.

“People with diabetes don’t always exercise as much as they should. More than 20 percent of people with diabetes are inactive. But 30% of people with both diabetes and arthritis are inactive.”

And “the additional inactivity wasn’t explained by differences in sex, age or weight,” the WSJ adds.

Both articles contemplate various reasons for not exercising — including lack of time, energy, and motivation. For arthritis sufferers, however, there is the obvious added difficulty: pain.

“When you have arthritis you have special barriers on top of [the general reasons for not exercising],” Helmick said. “You don’t know what activities are safe. And you worry: ‘Will exercise make my joint pain worse?’ ‘Will exercise harm my joints?'”

nullThe Arthritis Foundation provides exercise tips on its Web site (see link below). Helmick recommends the basics: walking, swimming, and bicycling.

“There are things you can do to make sure you can live your life the way you want to live,” Helmick said. “Things that don’t involve taking a lot more medication.”

To read the WSJ blog entry on the CDC findings, a WebMD news article, examples of arthritis exercises, or information on Stanford’s Self-Management Program (for help living with the diseases), click on one of the links below:

Article References
Arthritis and Diabetes: Imperfect Together, site accessed on 06/02/08

CDC: 52 percent with diabetes have arthritis, site accessed on 06/02/08

Arthritis Foundation: Introduction to Arthritis Exercise, site accessed on 06/02/08

Stanford University-developed Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, site accessed on 06/02/08