The Asthma-Diabetes Link: Real or Illusory?

Asthma and Diabetes

| May 22, 2011

Does asthma boost your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease? A new review of years of medical records suggests that it does.  Minnesota's Mayo clinic conducted the study, which looked at heaps of medical records from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. The link was straightforward. People with asthma were more likely to have both diabetes and heart disease than people without the breathing condition.

The researchers were taken aback by the apparent link because it doesn't fit their current understanding of the conditions. Doctors believe that asthmatics have one kind of immune system--prone to allergies--and that heart disease and diabetic patients have another--prone to inflammation issues. "It was surprising because there are two broad (immune profile) categories that they're looking at here," said Dr. Jennifer Appleyard of St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit. Having asthma, therefore, shouldn't have caused the 2,400 people in the study to be any more likely to have those other conditions.

So what happened?

It's possible, of course, that the conditions, and the immune profiles, have more subtle connections than scientists previously thought. But researchers also pointed to the treatment that asthmatics once used heavily--steroids. Those on steroid treatment can gain weight, and excess weight is a risk factor for diabetes and heart disease. More treatments are available today, doctors note, so further research is needed.

"It would warrant a prospective study to find patients with asthma now and follow them to see what happens," said Dr. Linda Dahl, an ear, nose, and throat specialist. "It would be important to assess both the disease and treatment, and how that affects what other illnesses develop."

The research was presented in late March at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology's annual meeting in San Francisco.


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Categories: Asthma, Diabetes, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Immune Systems, Overweight

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Posted by Vicky on 22 December 2011


I just came across your website whilst looking up a few things about my son, I feel that I need to comment because what you have described almost identically fits the profile of what happened to my son.

My son was born at full term with a typical healthy delivery, and for his first 2 years was completely without illness (other than typical colds). When he reached 2; with no forewarning; he developed Asthma type symptoms, which later went on to be described as 'Brittle Asthma' due to the frequency of exacerbations, and was hospitalised over several weeks. He was treated at the time with cortisteriods (Prednisolone), however suffered a reaction to the steroids. (each administered dose produced difficulty breathing and what were described as hives). Eventually the steroids were replaced with Hydrocortisone, although due to the nature higher than usual doses were given.

Upon later examination, (via chest X-ray) some large shadowing was found on the lower lobe of his lung that was identified to be an advanced chest infection which was treated with antibiotics. My sons condition gradually and completely cleared up over several months, but ironically so did the Asthma type symptoms.
It's our belief that the asthma type symptoms were in fact created by the advanced stages of a chest infection (which alone will cause respiratory distress in infants) coupled with some form of reaction to the Prednisolone cortisteriods; or perhaps some content within them.

Approximately 12 months later; and again with little forewarning; my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, and is now completely Insulin dependent. Type 1 Diabetes does not run in the family on either side that we are aware of, hence the surprise. Additionally, my son has always maintained an ideal weight, until of course the onset of diabetes where he lost some considerable weight.

I'd be more than happy to discuss this matter with you in more detail if you feel it will help with your research.


Posted by Anonymous on 1 July 2013

I was very healthy until around 2 or 3 years old when I began to have severe asthma (year 1985 or 1986). I've had to stay at a hospital at least once. I was given drugs and a shot(s). Afterward, I was given a machine with a mask to breathe with for a number of minutes daily. This continued until I was about 4 or 5 years old when the asthma improved to a point that it didn't affect my daily life. It occurred only through allergies to cigarette smoke, mold, mildew, dust mites, and animal dander, especially cats and at the time. Hiking caused some asthma but I suspect this was due to my lungs not being very strong after having had severe asthma.

Later, 4.5 months after I turned 6 years old during year 1989, in February, I got Type 1 diabetes. I had never been overweight even once in my entire life in all of this time. Rather, I was quite skinny and underweight when I had asthma and when I got diabetes, I lost an additional 10 pounds. I was so, so skinny after this you could count nearly every bone in my body.

Maybe what the study said about asthma and obesity did cause diabetes in other kids but is it Type 1 or is it Type 2 diabetes?

I don't fit the profile, so is there still a link between my diabetes and asthma or not?

What if it is something more along the lines of, my body had been dealing with the severe asthma for so long that when the asthma finally got better, the T cells got confused and attacked my pancreatic cells because they no longer had asthma to deal with?

Another theory is, my parents believe it may have been the drugs (shots) I was given during the severe asthma that also affected my pancreas due to having such a weakened body. The drugs (shots) were no longer on the market shortly after I had received them.

I would love to learn more about how I could have gotten diabetes Type 1. When I was 6 years old, I was promised by doctors and nurses that a cure would be found 20 years later. I'm now 29 years old. Don't take it personally; I believe deeply that even if a cure were found (and it may have been found already), that it would be hidden and buried. Pharmaceutical companies thrive on the money of people that needs medicine in order to stay alive. Researches are being done, sure, but I think it's wasted time and just a way to get money. Everything is always about money. In the end, money and greedy people always win. There may be a cure, but people may never know about it and most will never be the lucky recipients of it. They, like I, will always use medicine, hobbling along on the crutches of medicine hoping for a cure while companies eagerly rub their hands waiting for people to fall victim to even further complications, such as heart disease, foot problems, neural problems, etc brought on by diabetes. So they'll make even more money selling drugs for those yet other complications. I've been VERY lucky thus far to not have had any complications brought on by diabetes such as foot, eye, heart, nerve, or kidney problems. But I dread what may happen in the future in spite of my best frustrated efforts to stay as healthy as I can be. I may sound bitter, but I'm bitter for a good reason. It is very, very rare for me to "vomit" these sentiments to anyone and this is the only third time in my life I'm expressing them. Once to a best friend and once to my husband. Diabetes research? It's a joke. It's just yet another way to come up with something new to market and sell to the truly diabetic people. I'm looking forward to the day the world ends for such selfish greedy people and the unfortunate and fortunate are given new bodies. I am so, so, grateful for God and the coming future. Don't get me wrong, I am and will always be grateful for the advancements in medicine making diabetes easier to handle such as insulin pumps, etc. I am and will always be grateful for those who truly believe in their mission to improve or cure diabetes. They are still making the world a better place.

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