However, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics shows a new link. Researchers have found that kids with diabetes may have a higher-than-average rate of asthma, and those with both conditions seem to have a tougher time keeping their blood sugar under control.
Among 2,000 3- to 21-year-olds with diabetes, 11% had asthma – higher than the expected 9% rate among children and young adults in the U.S.
The difference was even bigger when the researchers looked at type 2 diabetes, the form associated with obesity, and usually diagnosed in adults. In that group, 16% had asthma.
Researchers also showed that kids with both type 1 diabetes and asthma were more likely to have poor blood sugar control than their peers who were asthma-free.
The reasons for the findings are not completely clear. However, the higher rate of asthma among young people with type 2 diabetes suggests a role for obesity, according to lead researcher Mary Helen Black, of the department of research and evaluation at Kaiser Permanente Southern California.
Some past research has found that people with poorly controlled diabetes are more likely to show diminished lung function over time than those with well-controlled diabetes. But the reasons for that are also unknown.
Black suggests the reason may simply be that it’s tougher for kids with type 1 diabetes to control their blood sugar when they have another chronic health problem.
The good news is that when kids with both diseases were on asthma medication, their blood sugar control was better. In particular, poor blood sugar control was seen in less than 5% of those taking leukotriene modifiers such as Singulair, Accolate and Zyflo; compared with about 30% of type 1 diabetics who were not on medication for their asthma.
The researchers are not sure if that means there’s an effect of the asthma drugs themselves. It may just be that kids with better-controlled asthma are also more likely to have well-controlled diabetes.
The bottom line for doctors and parents is to be aware that kids with diabetes may have a somewhat higher rate of asthma – and that those with both may have more trouble with blood sugar control.
Do you or your child suffer from both conditions? Does this research support your experience? As always we’d love to hear from you.