People with diabetes have a 300% higher risk of developing tuberculosis (TB) than people without diabetes.
“The rapidly growing pandemic of diabetes is a great threat for tuberculosis control,” says Dr Anthony Harries from the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease in the run-up to the 42nd Union World Conference on Lung Health.
Worldwide approximately 350 million people suffer from diabetes and in South Africa an estimated 6.5 million people are believed to have diabetes.
Harrier explained that diabetes suppresses a patient’s immune system, therefore increasing the probability of the person developing TB disease. In South Africa, and particularly the Western Cape, one in every three people are believed to be infected with TB, which will only progress into disease once a person’s immune system is compromised.
Diagnosis and treatment difficulties
In addition to the greater susceptibility to TB, diabetes also creates problems for the diagnoses and treatment of TB.
TB presents differently in people with diabetes which makes it more difficult for doctors to make a correct diagnosis. Regular pulmonary TB usually occur in the top parts of the lungs while TB occurs in the bottom part of the lung in people with diabetes. “Doctors easily confuse TB with pneumonia in these patients,” says Harries, and mean that patients aren’t treated correctly.
In cases where a correct diagnosis is made, the TB medication could adversly affect the liver of a patient with diabetes, which could lead to other health complications.
Harries explained that diabetes is very similar to HIV in TB patients in that it increases the risk of getting TB; it makes it more difficult to diagnose; it increases the patient’s risk of death and also increases the risk of recurrent TB.
Harries suggests screening of diabetes in TB patients, and vice versa, and urges diabetes patients to control their diabetes closely in order to lower their risk of developing TB disease.
(Wilma Stassen, Health24, October 2011)
Diabetes, TB and HIV/Aids