People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at higher risk of contracting respiratory, urinary tract and skin infections than people without diabetes, according to an article in the August 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, now available online.
Diabetes can cause kidney problems, nerve damage, blindness and serious cardiovascular complications. Obesity increases the likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in children, although it can also develop in adults.
Previous studies have indicated a possible relationship between diabetes and infections, but most of the studies have been retrospective, analyzing previously collected data. The new study looked forward, prospectively comparing about 7,500 diabetic patients with nearly 19,000 selected control patients to examine the link between diabetes and infections.
The researchers found that compared to patients in the control group, the odds were significantly higher that both type 1 and type 2 diabetic patients would develop infections of the respiratory tract, skin and mucous membranes and urinary tract. In fact, patients with type 1 diabetes were twice as likely to develop a urinary tract infection as non-diabetics. Diabetics’ risk for recurring infection was also higher.
“Physicians should be aware of the fact that diabetes patients have an increased risk of common infections,” said Leonie Muller, MSc, of the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands and lead author of the study. “Further research should focus on the prognosis of common infections in patients with diabetes, thereby providing physicians tailored information on which patients are at high risk.”
Americans’ expanding waistlines carry a heightened risk for diabetes, which could also mean heightened risk for infections. “With increasing rates of type 2 diabetes patients, some common infections of the lungs, bladder and skin will also be more common in this group,” Ms. Muller said, but more research is needed on obesity as an isolated risk of infections resulting from diabetes.
Diabetics “should realize that they are at increased risk of common infections,” said Ms. Muller, so that they can take preventive measures, including influenza vaccination, drinking plenty of fluids and leading a generally healthy lifestyle. “Moreover, they might pay attention to signs indicating an infection at an earlier stage and contact their physician for advice,” Ms. Muller added.