Previous illnesses might point to future diabetes risk, says study
When diagnosing type 2 diabetes, physicians can look for a range of typical symptoms such as frequent urination and excessive thirst. Now, researchers say the development of other illnesses in the body might need to be added in as a predictive tool.
The diagnosis and potential treatment of diabetes has seen some pretty out-of-the-box advances in the past two years. Researchers have demonstrated effective control of the disease using ultrasound in animal models; transmuted human stomach cells into insulin-producing cells; identified a plant extract that can normalize blood sugar; shown how natural light could play a role in fighting the disease; and even used a Queen song to release insulin in mice. Yes, a Queen song.
Reporting at this year’s Annual Meeting of The European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) this week in Germany, though, researchers have revealed a much less whiz-bang way to identify who might be likely to develop type 2 diabetes: simply look at their medical history.
After an analysis of the 1,932 adults who took part in the Diabetes Alliance for Research in England (DARE) Study, researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester University and Salford Royal Hospital (SRH) identified 1,196 people who'd developed type 2 diabetes along with 736 who didn't. Their medical records were analyzed for a period of up to 50 years including 25 years before and 25 years after their diagnosis which, on average, was given around 53 years of age.
They found that there were several health conditions that appeared in the diabetes group years before they developed the disease. These include: asthma, heart conditions, high blood pressure, respiratory tract infections, and eye, nose and throat infections. In fact, in the diabetic group, over one in three people had experienced respiratory tract infections, one in five got ENT infections or had a heart condition like angina, a heart attack, or a coronary artery bypass, and one in 10 developed asthma.
In the group that did not develop type 2 diabetes less than one in 20 people were diagnosed with any of the conditions with an exception for those who got respiratory infections at a rate of about one in 10.
The researchers point out that the study was relatively small and that further work needs to be done to establish a clear link between the precursor diseases and the development of diabetes but, they say, the inflammation involved in all the diseases helps the findings make sense.
“Understanding the long-term clinical history of type 2 diabetes years before diagnosis means that, in the future, people could have the time to make lifestyle changes to prevent this life-changing disease from arising”, said study co-author Adrian Heald from SRH. “This study demonstrates that subacute inflammation which manifests as the onset of hypertension, asthma or an acute infection, regardless of whether it is caused by the genome, demography or comorbidities, may serve as a precursor to the later onset of type 2 diabetes.”
Still, the researchers are hopeful that their study adds another tool to doctors' diagnostic toolbox when observing patients' long-term health and their likelihood of developing diabetes.
“These observations offer a fascinating and fresh perspective on the beginning and normal development from pre-type 2 diabetes to type 2 diabetes diagnosis and beyond, implying a possible early stage of disease activity that is linked to, but not yet clinically diagnosed as, diabetes," added Heald. "The matter of metabolic control and how this relates to a broad range of treatment factors (both) pharmacological and non-pharmacological will be addressed in a future work.”