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Diabetes compromises the immune system: Study finds diabetics face increased risk of serious infections
02/07/2018 // Earl Garcia // Views

A recent study published in the journal Diabetes Care revealed that patients with diabetes were at an increased risk of severe infections and infection-related death compared with the general public. As part of the study, a team of researchers at the University of St George's London pooled data from 102,493 English primary care patients aged 40 to 89 years old who had a diabetes diagnosis since 2008.

The research team noted that 5,863 of these patients had type 1 diabetes, while 96,630 had type 2 diabetes. These numbers were compared with 203,518 healthy matched controls. The experts then determined infection rates between 2008 and 2015, which were obtained from primary care and linked hospital and mortality records. The rates were compared across 19 individual infection categories.

The scientists used Poisson regression to estimate the incidence rate ratios of infection among diabetes patients and healthy controls. The incidence rate ratios were adjusted for age, sex and smoking habits as well as body mass index and deprivation. The results showed that diabetes patients had higher overall infection rates than their healthier counterparts. According to the researchers, the highest incidence rate ratios observed were for bone and joint infections, sepsis, and cellulitis.

"We have confirmed that people with diabetes are more prone to all infections, particularly serious infections like bone and joint infections, endocarditis, and sepsis. We have also shown that infections among people with diabetes cause substantial ill-health and need for [National Health Service] treatment," researcher Dr. Iain Carey of the university's Population Health Research Institute told Science Daily online.


The findings also revealed that the incidence rate ratios for infection-related hospitalizations were 3.71 for patients with type 1 diabetes and 1.88 for patients with type 2 diabetes. Likewise, data from a direct comparison of diabetes types showed that patients with type 1 diabetes had higher adjusted risk of infections than patients with type 2 diabetes.

Furthermore, the results revealed that 6 percent of infection-related hospitalizations and 12 percent of infection-related deaths were directly associated with diabetes. The findings underscore the importance of developing strategies that reduce the risk of developing severe infections and poor treatment outcomes, the researchers said. (Related: What You Can Do About Diabetes-Related Fungal Infections.)

"Better management of diabetes patients, through improvements in control of their blood sugar levels for example, or more rapid recognition of infections by patients and carers, may help prevent future infections," Dr. Carey said.

"People with diabetes, particularly T1DM, are at increased risk of serious infection, representing an important population burden. Strategies that reduce the risk of developing severe infections and poor treatment outcomes are under-researched and should be explored," the researchers concluded.

Prevent infections with these wound management tips

An article posted in the medical resource site Medscape revealed that patients with diabetes were more susceptible to a host of conditions -- such as skin and soft tissue infections, wound ulcers and ear, nose, and throat infections -- that compromise their overall health and wellness. Wound infections were particularly common among patients with diabetes, which were caused by nerve damage in infected areas.

An entry featured on the Advanced Tissue website offered a few tips in preventing the onset of diabetic foot ulcers and subsequent infections. These include:

  • Inspect the feet - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that diabetes patients perform a routine inspection of their feet and be on the lookout for cuts, blisters, and calluses as well as red spots, swelling and other abnormalities. The entry also suggested having the feet checked by a podiatrist at least once a year.
  • Protect the feet - The article recommended washing the feet daily with mild soap and clean, tepid water to prevent the onset of infections. The entry also suggested using lotion to ensure that the feet do not develop fissures.
  • Prevent hyperglycemia - The article stressed that diabetes patients should maintain healthy blood sugar levels, as extremely high levels may cause nerve damage and subsequent loss of sensation. According to the report, this loss of sensation may eventually lead to ulceration and subsequent wound infection.

Log on to Science.news and be updated with the latest news about diabetes and disease management.


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