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What Is the Connection between Diabetes and Thyroid Disease?

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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 13 September 2016
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Diabetes and thyroid disease are both autoimmune disorders, and patients with one such condition have a significant risk of developing a second. What this means is that the presence of either diabetes or thyroid disease can predispose a patient to the presence of the other. Patients of any age can develop both diseases, and the presence of both at the same time is not uncommon.

Approximately 12% of patients with diabetes are also diagnosed with some type of thyroid disease. Hypothyroid disorders and postpartum thyroiditis are much more common than hyperthyroidism, though diabetic patients can have any type of thyroid disorder. Females are more likely than males to develop both diseases and people with type 1 diabetes are more likely to develop thyroid disease than people with type 2. As many as 30% of young women with type 1 diabetes may be diagnosed with thyroid disease.

The risk of developing diabetes and thyroid disease increases as a person ages. Though thyroid problems are less likely in patients with type 2, sometimes called adult onset, diabetes there is still a strong connection between the presence of this type of this condition and thyroid disease. The overall instance of patients who have diabetes and who later develop thyroid disease is nearly twice that of the instance of thyroid disease in the general public.

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The connection between the conditions stems from the fact that both are autoimmune disorders. In patients with these types of diseases, the immune system does not function normally and attacks organs or components of the patient’s body. In patients with diabetes, the immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, while in thyroid disease, the immune system destroys the tissue of the thyroid gland. These patients are also at risk of developing other autoimmune diseases as well.

A number of complications can develop in patients who have both disorders. The presence of thyroid disease can make it difficult for a person to regulate the level of insulin in the bloodstream, which can cause serious complications for diabetic patients. Medications are available to manage thyroid disease, and it is extremely important for patients with both diabetes and thyroid disease to keep these conditions in check.

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candyquilt
Post 3

I'm not a doctor but I think the connection between thyroid disease and diabetes are thyroid medications. I'm on a synthetic thyroid hormone and it increases my blood sugar as a side effects. So thyroid medications could easily tip someone who is pre-diabetic over the edge. I have no idea if this side effect will reverse when I stop taking the medication. I guess doctors prefer fixing the thyroid first since it affects so many functions in the body.

fify
Post 2

@burcinc-- I actually don't think that the connection between diabetes and thyroid disease is as strong as people make it out to be.

I had a similar experience as you where my diabetes and thyroid disease were diagnosed just a few months apart. However, my thyroid disease was treated and the gland recovered on its own. I no longer have thyroid problems but I still have type 2 diabetes. If the two were really related, wouldn't the diabetes have disappeared along with the thyroid dysfunction?

I think that both disorders have to do with our immune system. So when our immune system is weak, we are more likely to suffer from these conditions. This doesn't mean that diabetes causes thyroid disease or thyroid disease causes diabetes.

burcinc
Post 1

I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and hypothyroidism on the same day. So I know first hand that these two are related. For me, I'm not sure which developed first or if they occurred simultaneously.

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