How Diabetes Impacts Your Lung Health

how diabetes impacts your lung health

Oftentimes it can be difficult to figure out exactly how one condition affects another, and nailing down the particulars of the relationship between diabetes and lung conditions is no exception. However, recent studies have suggested that there is a relationship between the two and that one can impact the other.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a group of diseases in which the body’s ability to produce or respond to insulin is impaired. Insulin is the hormone responsible for allowing your body to utilize the glucose it gets from food. The inability to produce or respond to insulin results in elevated glucose levels in blood and abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates.

Most Common Forms Of Diabetes: Type I and Type II

Type I diabetes is a chronic condition where the pancreas produces little to no insulin and typically appears in adolescence. Type II diabetes affects how your body responds to insulin, as opposed to how it produces insulin. Type II diabetes typically appears in adulthood and is often caused by poor diet or lack of exercise. It is important to note that Type I diabetes is often caused by genetics alone, while Type II diabetes is caused by a mixture of genetic and environmental factors.

Diabetes affects pretty much all systems of the body, and some of the long-term complications that can arise from diabetes are:

  • heart and blood vessel damage

  • nerve damage, kidney damage

  • eye damage

  • skin conditions

  • and hearing impairments

Diabetes And The Lungs

A recent study published in Diabetes Care found that adults with either Type I or Type II diabetes are 8% more likely to have asthma, 22% more like to have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), 54% more likely to have pulmonary fibrosis, and nearly twice as likely to be hospitalized for pneumonia.

By far, scientists are unsure exactly how or why diabetes impacts our lung function, but some suggest that the cause of decreased lung capacity and function is inflammation. Others believe it might be caused by obesity or smoking. Either way, lung function can get worse as blood glucose levels increase due to diabetes.

Pulmonary Function Tests

One way that a pulmonologist can monitor and examine your lung capabilities is through Pulmonary Function Testing. Pulmonary Function Tests or PFTs is an umbrella term to refer to a litany of tests that check and measure lung function. These tests identify:

  • how much air you can take into your lungs

  • how much air you can blow out as well as how fast you can do it

  • how well your lungs deliver oxygen to your blood

  • the strength of your muscles used for breathing

PFTs can include simple screening spirometry, formal lung volume measurement, diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide, arterial blood gases and are collectively referred to as a complete pulmonary function survey. These tests may not show exactly what is causing pulmonary problems, but they will definitely show how well your lungs function. In order to find the underlying causes, a pulmonologist may order a chest X-ray or CT scan.

Who Can Help?

If you have diabetes and are experiencing symptoms associated with pulmonary disorders, our experts at Pulmonary Associates of Brandon can give you a Pulmonary Function Test. Our team of highly specialized physicians will be able to diagnose and treat any pulmonary disorders that may be related to your diabetes.