Ways Diabetes Increases Risk of Tuberculosis

Updated at: Apr 13, 2012
Ways Diabetes Increases Risk of Tuberculosis

People, who are diabetic, are at a greater risk of contracting tuberculosis (TB) than non-diabetics. To prevent TB, a diabetic must maintain good sugar levels and avoid coming in contact with a TB patient.

Gunjan Rastogi
Communicable DiseasesWritten by: Gunjan RastogiPublished at: Apr 13, 2012

The World Health Organization (WHO) has found that the cases of TB with diabetes mellitus are increasing throughout the world. The WHO has anticipated that by 2030, the number of such cases will reach 438 million. Diabetes increases the risk of tuberculosis because it deteriorates one’s immune response, due to which a diabetic  easily gets infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis.


Diabetics have three to five times higher the risk of developing tuberculosis (TB) than people, who do not have diabetes. According to a study published in PLoS Medicine, type 2 diabetics particularly possess a greater chance of active tuberculosis.  Christie Jeon and Megan Murray of the Harvard School of Public Health arrived at this conclusion. They searched research data of the last four years on the association between TB and diabetes. The research data involved 1.7 million participants out of which  17,698 were TB patients.


The link between diabetes and TB goes back to the 20th century, but due to the availability of treatment for both diseases, it was forgotten. Diabetics, who are in close contact with a TB patient, are main candidates of preventive treatment. Doctors recommend that diabetics with TB contacts must go for TB screening from time to time to detect TB at an early stage and to manage both the diseases effectively. In India and China, diabetes has caused about 10% of TB cases.


For TB control and prevention, it is important that diabetics worldwide know how to identify and treat TB, especially latent TB. Increased awareness about diagnosing and treating diabetes might also aid to bring down the overall number of  TB cases, which kills about 1.6 million people each year.

When to suspect TB?

Latent TB
is asymptomatic, but becomes active after a period of 1-2 years. If left untreated, active TB can be fatal. Symptoms of active TB are cough for more than 3 weeks, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, blood in cough, chest pain or pain while breathing or coughing and sweating at night.

Other links between diabetes and TB

  • Diabetic patients with TB take longer time to respond to anti-TB treatment.
  • Type 2 diabetics with active tuberculosis are more likely to develop multi-drug resistant TB compared with other or non-diabetics.


How to prevent TB in Diabetics?

  • Diabetics need to maintain a good control on their blood glucose levels. The risk of tuberculosis shoots up when hyperglycemia is uncontrolled.
  • TB is an airborne disease. To prevent the contraction of this disease, a diabetic should maintain distance from TB patients.

Read more articles on Tuberculosis.




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