A study of more than 9,000 children found that patients with juvenile inflammatory arthritis more often develop type 1 diabetes than other children. Presented at the European League Against Rheumatism Annual Congress (EULAR 2016) June 8-11 in London, the study suggests that a better understanding of the connection between the two autoimmune conditions might lead to better treatments for both diseases.
Research in recent years exploring links between different autoimmune conditions has revealed a host of shared genes, placing its carriers at an increased risk of developing several autoimmune diseases. Juvenile inflammatory arthritis is no exception, and earlier studies have found that children and adolescents with the condition are also more likely to develop other autoimmune conditions.
Juvenile inflammatory arthritis — a chronic inflammation of synovial joints — is the most common rheumatic disease in children, and can affect 1-year-old babies.
“We know that there is a clear increase in the prevalence of juvenile inflammatory arthritis in young people with type 1 diabetes compared with the general pediatric population,” said study co-author Kirsten Minden from the Rheumatism Research Centre in Berlin, Germany. “However, this study shows the reverse correlation, that type 1 diabetes occurs more commonly in patients with juvenile inflammatory arthritis.
“The next step is to explore in detail the factors and mechanisms that link the two diseases, and confirm that these findings are applicable to other geographic areas, where different environmental and genetic factors are at play. By better understanding this link, we may be able to develop new preventative and therapeutic interventions,” she said.
Minden and her team studied 9,359 children and adolescents with juvenile inflammatory arthritis who were registered in the German national pediatric rheumatologic database (NPRD) in 2012 and 2013.
The study reports that among these patients, 50 children also had type 1 diabetes — 0.5 percent of the group. Compared to children of the same age and sex in the general population, the rates of type 1 diabetes in juvenile inflammatory arthritis patients were about twice as high.
More than half the group — 58 percent — developed diabetes on average five years before the rheumatic disease. On the other hand, children who developed arthritis first developed diabetes on average three years later.
Most of the affected children in the study had not received any disease modifying drugs for their rheumatic disease before they were diagnosed with diabetes.
The study, “Diabetes Prevalence In Patients With Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA),” also concluded that the presence of type 1 diabetes did not impact the severity of the juvenile inflammatory arthritis.