High Rates of Arthritis Found in People with Diabetes

If you have both diabetes and arthritis, you are not alone. According to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 52% of adults in the United States who have diabetes also have arthritis. That is almost double the arthritis rate for the general adult population, which stands at 27%. And the correlation between diabetes and arthritis holds up through all age groups.


Arthritis affects about 52% of people with diabetes in the 45 to 64 age group and about 62% of those aged 65 and older—in both cases a significantly higher percentage than in these populations as a whole. And, perhaps most surprisingly, arthritis affects about 28% of individuals with diabetes who are 18 to 44 years old. That is two-and-a-half times the rate for that age group in the general population.

The study also found that people with both diabetes and arthritis are much less likely to be physically active than people with diabetes alone. Physical activity is beneficial for people with diabetes and for people with arthritis. It helps people with diabetes control their weight and hold their blood glucose levels in check. And it helps people with arthritis control pain and maintain mobility in their joints.

But about 21% of people with diabetes are inactive, while about 30% of those with both diabetes and arthritis are inactive. Researchers speculate that the stiff and painful joints of arthritis, and fear of further injuring those joints, may prevent people with diabetes and arthritis from getting the physical activity they need.

How can people with both these conditions become physically active? The study’s authors suggest that an arthritis self-management program, such as the Arthritis Foundation Self-Help Program, can help. These programs teach people workable and safe strategies, such as exercise, for managing arthritis. Even more helpful may be the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, which focuses broadly on management techniques for many chronic conditions, including diabetes and arthritis.

To locate an Arthritis Self-Help Program or a Chronic Disease Self-Management Program in your area, log on to http://patienteducation.stanford.edu/organ. This page features links to organizations that offer these self-management programs. You can also get Arthritis Self-Help Program information from local chapters of the Arthritis Foundation.

Has arthritis affected your ability to exercise or had an impact on your diabetes self-management in some other way? How are you coping? Share your story with a comment below.

This blog entry was written by Assistant Editor David W. Golann and first appeared in Arthritis Self-Management magazine. Arthritis Self-Management is a bimonthly magazine filled with expert advice and practical solutions for people dealing with the problems and challenges that arthritis brings every day. For a free trial issue of the magazine, go to www.arthritis-self-mgmt.com.

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  • Steve Parker, M.D.

    Years ago, during my medical training, we talked about the “diabetic triad”: diabetes, arthritis, and hypertension.

    It’s important to note that the proper type of exercise can actually improve arthritis, rather than making it worse. Thanks for the exercise links above.

    -Steve Parker, M.D.

  • Hilkka Haliburton

    I quite agree with arthritis + inactivity=poorly controlled diabetes. I’ve had to engage in drastic exercise to keep active. Aquafitness was wonderful a few years ago; then I developed ear infections + foot infections. I became wary of any activity. So now I’m fat, so out of shape and feel very discouraged. Seems that all excercise costs money and when one operates on a pension….good luck to all. HH

  • Carol Vann

    My husband and I both have diabetes type 2. We also both have A positive blood type. Do you notice that a lot of arthritis/diabetics are a+ blood type?? We both are being helped by Byetta shots. I Thank you for your information.

  • Chris Stoots

    I have had type one, thirty-three yrs, and arthritis over twenty-eight yrs, now considered sjogrens syndrom, a form of arthritis.
    I’m O + ?
    I use isometrics and any movement I can make on any particular day. Just move, anything that you can !
    You’ll feel better.
    Good luck, C.S.

  • Ferne

    I have had diabetes and arthritis for many years. I am A neg! Seems to me that has nothing to do with it. I can’t walk so lift weights and use other machines. It is other medical problems that don’t allow me to walk.