Diabetes: New study reveals patients far likely to get other autoimmune disorders

Thyroid is the most common autoimmune diseases that patients of type 1 diabetes develop.

Picture for representation Reuters

A recent study revealed that patients with type 1 diabetes are often prone to other autoimmune disorders, such as thyroid and gastrointestinal diseases.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the pancreas and destroys its cells which produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone that mainly allows your body to use glucose from carbohydrates from the food consumed to produce energy. It also prevents the blood sugar level from getting too high or too low.

Patients suffering from this disease often develop other immune system diseases, revealed a study, according to Reuters. It has been found out that 27 percent of patients with type 1 diabetes had at least one other autoimmune disorder.

Moreover, the new study also gives some information about how early and late in life these added health problems might surface.

"The pattern that emerged was striking: autoimmune diseases begin early in childhood, where nearly 20 percent of those under age 6 already have additional diseases other than type 1 diabetes," said lead author Dr. Jing Hughes of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

"Another surprise finding was that, while we had expected that autoimmune diseases may peak at a certain time of life, we found instead that the autoimmune burden continues to increase as patients age, to the extent that nearly 50 percent of those over age 65 have accumulated one or more additional autoimmune disease," he added.

It was also reported that the findings for the study are drawn from data on nearly 26,000 adults and children being treated for type 1 diabetes between 2010 and 2016.

In the of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers report that those who have other autoimmune disorders in addition to diabetes, 20 percent had one additional problem and 5 percent had at least two additional diseases. The study also mentioned that patients with one or more additional autoimmune disorders were more likely to be older, female and white. It was also found out that these people have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at an older age.


It was reported that at least 24 percent of the patients are diagnosed with Thyroid as additional common autoimmune disorders. In most of these cases, the patient suffers from hypothyroid, a medical condition where the thyroid glands are underactive. Hypothyroid often leads to constipation, weakness, weight gain, depression and a slowed heart rate.

The second most common autoimmune problem among type 1 diabetes patients is Celiac disease. This disease affects about 6 percent of people and damages the small intestine and can lead to complications like malnutrition, low bone density, lactose intolerance and infertility.

Other common autoimmune problems included Graves disease (overactive thyroid), rheumatoid arthritis and vitiligo.

However, according to Dr Hughes, the study falls short of data on how old patients were when the autoimmune disorders developed. This drawback makes it impossible to determine if participants gradually accumulated these diseases or if they occurred around a certain age.

The author also urges people with type 1 diabetes to get regular checkups and screening to determine if there are any autoimmune diseases

According to the news agency Dr. Laurie Tsilianidis, an endocrinologist at Cleveland Clinic Children's in Ohio said, "The take home message is that kids with type 1 diabetes are at increased risk of developing other autoimmune diseases compared to kids who don't have type 1 diabetes,"

"This is particularly true once they become adults, and Caucasian women carry the greatest risk," the doctor added.

Related topics : Diabetes