About Lupus

The Risk for Diabetes: What You Need to Know

One of the chronic illnesses that has a tendency to develop along with lupus—which itself is very difficult to deal with—is Type 2 diabetes.

You are more at risk for diabetes if you are obese, have a diet high in fats and sugars, don’t get regular exercise, have a family history of diabetes, or are 45 or older.

Unfortunately for people with lupus, another risk factor for diabetes is taking the medicine prednisone, a powerful corticosteroid drug that quiets the overactive lupus immune system. Prednisone’s inflammation fighting and immune system-suppressing actions have saved the lives of many people with lupus.

But prednisone also has damaging, unwanted effects on the body. Diabetes can happen when prednisone—taken at certain dosages and over certain amounts of time—causes the liver to send out high levels of glucose (sugar) into the blood. Over time, the body becomes less sensitive to the hormone, insulin, which the body needs to break down sugar in the blood and convert it into energy for cells to use.

Without enough insulin, sugar builds up in the blood, starving cells of energy. High levels of sugar in the blood can eventually hurt the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart. Diabetes, like lupus, can not only make you very sick, it can also take your life.

Prevent and Protect
As with lupus, diabetes is for various reasons more common among African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Asian Americans. Be aware of this possible double threat to your health. Ask your doctor about your specific chances of getting diabetes—and what you can do prevent it.

For example, you may help to protect yourself from diabetes by eating healthy foods, exercising, and keeping a healthy weight. These activities also help with lupus in general, of course. Also, have your blood sugar levels regularly checked.

Sometimes, diabetes disappears when the prednisone is stopped or the dose is lowered. If you do develop diabetes, be careful to take the diabetes medicines or insulin therapy to manage your blood sugar. When properly treated, even a person with diabetes and lupus has a good chance of living a long and fulfilling life.

What you can do to protect yourself

  • Don't smoke
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise
  • Eat a low-fat diet
  • Know your family history
  • Talk to your doctor