There is some evidence that diabetes is a risk factor for asthma and vice versa. Some experts suggest that systemic inflammation could play a role in both conditions. Asthma medications may contribute to diabetes, and diabetes may cause changes in the lungs that contribute to asthma.

Asthma is a condition that affects a person’s airways, causing them to close and become inflamed. In diabetes, the body has difficulties maintaining optimal blood sugar levels, causing them to become too high. Although they are both chronic conditions, many people initially assume there is no link between asthma and diabetes.

However, scientists have begun to explore possible links between asthma and diabetes. This article explains the latest research, risk factors, and management strategies for both conditions.

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the immune system destroys insulin-creating cells. In type 2 diabetes, the body does not produce sufficient insulin or does not react properly to the substance.

Asthma and diabetes may be risk factors for one another. A 2020 study found that siblings of people with asthma had an increased risk of type 1 diabetes and vice versa. Additionally, a 2021 review found an association between asthma and type 2 diabetes.

Scientists are unsure what causes this link. One popular theory suggests systemic inflammation could increase the risk of both conditions. However, diabetes could contribute to asthma, and asthma could contribute to diabetes.

For instance, some researchers suspect that asthma can develop or worsen because of elevated blood sugar or blood-insulin levels in the lungs of people with diabetes. Conversely, steroids are a mainstay of asthma treatment, though they can cause or exacerbate diabetes.

Learn more about diabetes.

According to the American Lung Association, there are several risk factors for asthma. These include:

That said, having risk factors for a condition does not guarantee it will develop.

Learn more about asthma.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), risk factors for type 1 diabetes include:

  • having a close relative with type 1 diabetes
  • being a child, teenager, or young adult
  • being white

There are many more known risk factors for type 2 diabetes. These include:

  • having a close relative with type 1 diabetes
  • having prediabetes
  • being overweight or obese
  • being 45 years of age or older
  • being physically active no more than twice per week
  • having a history of gestational diabetes
  • having given birth to an infant who weighed more than 9 pounds

Race and ethnicity are also relevant to type 2 diabetes. The following groups are at an increased risk of developing this condition:

  • African Americans
  • Hispanic and Latino individuals
  • American Indians
  • Alaska Natives

Scientists also suspect that being a Pacific Islander or an Asian American could also be a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Learn more about diabetes risk factors.

Some scientists have concerns that asthma medications could worsen a person’s diabetes.

However, the data on this connection remains unclear.

The 2021 review found evidence that corticosteroids can increase blood sugar levels. They may also disrupt the body’s control over blood sugar levels. Since corticosteroids are crucial for managing asthma, this could complicate treatment for people with both conditions.

On the other hand, a 2020 study found that asthma only affects diabetes when it is severe. The study argues that inhaled steroids do not affect blood sugar levels at low or mild doses. With this in mind, more research into treatment for people with diabetes and asthma is necessary.

The CDC outlines some lifestyle choices that can help with diabetes. Some of these choices could also benefit people with asthma. Individuals can manage diabetes by:

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), these measures can positively affect asthma.

Learn about the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.

Some studies suggest that asthma could increase the risk of type 1 and 2 diabetes and vice versa. This link could be due to systemic inflammation, which may be at the root of both conditions.

Appropriate lifestyle choices help individuals manage both conditions. For instance, obesity may worsen asthma and diabetes, so people may benefit from maintaining a moderate body weight.

Having both diabetes and asthma could cause some challenges. Inhaled corticosteroids are crucial for managing asthma, yet some experts believe they may worsen a person’s diabetes.