Having diabetes is linked to a higher risk for a type of sinus inflammation that can cause loss of smell — chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps — according to a new study published in the journal Clinical Otolaryngology.
Having diabetes has long been known to increase the risk for certain infections, or at least increase the risk for poor outcomes in people who develop certain infections. The most famous example of late is, of course, COVID-19, which is far more dangerous for people with diabetes than for the general population — especially if you have a long-term history of less than optimal blood glucose control. But having diabetes — especially with poor blood glucose control — has been linked to other infections, as well, including oral infections that can lead to loss of teeth. And having diabetes has been shown to increase the general risk of needing hospitalization for an infection.
For the latest study, researchers focused specifically on how having diabetes might affect the risk for different types of chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS) — ongoing inflammation of the nasal cavity and surrounding sinus cavities, which may be the lasting effect of an infection in the area. CRS is estimated to affect 5% to 10% of people worldwide, and can carry a severe burden of symptoms that interferes with daily life, as noted in a press release on the study. CRS is divided into two further categories: CRS with and without nasal polyps. Nasal polyps are growths of inflamed tissue that form along the inside of the nasal and sinus cavities, and can interfere with breathing if they grow large and numerous enough.
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Diabetes linked to increased risk of CRS with nasal polyps
The researchers used data from the Korean National Health and Nutrition Survey, collected between 2008 and 2012. A total of 34,670 participants ages 19 and older were examined for CRS and its associated symptoms. They were also divided between participants who had been diagnosed with diabetes and those who had not been. After adjusting for multiple factors that could affect the risk for CRS — including sex, tobacco and alcohol use, income level, and having certain health conditions — the researchers found that people with diabetes were 54% more likely to have CRS with nasal polyps. No significant difference was seen in the risk for CRS without nasal polyps. What’s more, people with diabetes were 80% more likely to experience loss of smell that lasts for longer than three months — a side effect typical of more severe forms of CRS.
The researchers concluded that while people with diabetes are apparently at higher risk for more severe nasal and sinus inflammation, more research is needed to find out exactly why this is the case — and what steps, including treatments for CRS or better diabetes self-management, might help people avoid the worst effects of CRS, such as loss of smell or difficulty breathing.