Experts Discover New Diabetes Risk

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” These are words we know by heart, but in the case of those with diabetes, they are especially true. Now, the World Health Organization has released news that a person with diabetes is actually at an increased risk of developing tuberculosis (known commonly as TB). Because diabetes weakens the immune system, those with the disease are three times more likely to develop tuberculosis. Triple the risk? Sadly, yes. Also, since diabetes rates are as high as they’ve ever been (due to high rate of obesity), tuberculosis rates are increasing.

The link between tuberculosis and diabetesI’m Diabetic. Should I Worry about Tuberculosis?

It’s estimated that around the world, one-third of the population is infected with tuberculosis. However, in developed countries, the number is far less. In fact, according to the most recent published statistics, in the United States, the TB infection rate was 3.6 cases per 100,000 population. So in a city the size of Philadelphia, statistics suggest that 54 people may be infected with tuberculosis. Impending epidemic?  No. However, for those with diminished immunity, it’s good to be aware of the risk. With that in mind, let’s talk about the signs and risks of tuberculosis.

What Are the Signs of Tuberculosis?

According to the CDC, the most common symptoms of TB are:

  • A bad cough that lasts 3 weeks or longer
  • Pain in the chest
  • Coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm from deep inside the lungs)
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • No appetite
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Sweating at night

If you are suffering from a combination of these symptoms and you are at an increased risk, it’s good to check with your doctor as soon as possible and see if he or she recommends a TB test.

What Puts Me at an Increased Risk?

There are two types of tuberculosis infection: latent and active. Therefore, you could be infected with TB and not display any symptoms. You can also carry the bacteria in your body and not develop the disease. You are at an increased risk for developing active tuberculosis if you (1)have previously been infected with TB bacteria or (2)have a medical condition that weakens the immune system, and:

  • You have spent time with a person known or suspected to have tuberculosis.
  • You have HIV infection.
  • You have visited a country where tuberculosis is very common.
  • You live or work where tuberculosis is more common, such as a homeless shelter, migrant farm camp, prison or jail, and some nursing homes.
  • You use illegal drugs.

We want our neighbors to be aware of the additional risks that can be associated with diabetes. If you are diabetic, talk to you doctor at your next visit about the risk of tuberculosis and whether or not a TB test is recommended.

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