Beyond Type 1 Diabetes: When T1D Isn’t the Only Uninvited House Guest

Posted on: September 28, 2018


Are you living with type 1 diabetes and another autoimmune condition? You are not alone. A recent T1D Exchange study reveals that people with type 1 diabetes (T1D) often have other autoimmune disorders, such as thyroid and gastrointestinal diseases.

In fact, one of T1D Exchange’s principle investigators, Dr. Jing Hughes, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, found a striking pattern that showed “autoimmune diseases begin early in childhood, where nearly 20 percent of those under age 6 already have additional diseases other than type 1 diabetes.”

Additionally, the study revealed another important finding. While it was previously assumed that autoimmune disease peak at certain times of life, the T1D Exchange analysis revealed that as people with T1D age, they are more likely to develop other autoimmune diseases. Dr. Hughes states that “nearly 50 percent of those over age 65 have accumulated one or more additional autoimmune disease.”

Most common autoimmune disorders found with type 1 diabetes include:

  • thyroid disease (occurring in 24% or 6,097 participants)
  • gastrointestinal disorders such as celiac disease (occurring in 6% or 1,530 participants)
  • and other collagen vascular disorders that affect connective tissues, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma

Increased likelihood of autoimmune disorders correlated with female gender, Caucasian race, and older age.

How can this study help you?

Know that you aren’t alone
If you are living with T1D and another autoimmune disease, it might help to know you aren’t alone. If you are looking for a way to connect with others like you, one way is through Glu, the online community for people touched by type 1 diabetes.

Start an online group on Glu!
You can recommend a group for Glu, such as “T1D and Lupus.” This may offer a chance to connect with others online who share similar health experiences (a group already exists for Diabetes and Celiac). Simply send an email to info@myglu.org and describe the group you’d like to see!

Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms not necessarily related to T1D
For example, an under-active thyroid can be associated with constipation, weakness, and weight gain. It’s important to note any new symptoms you might experience and discuss them with your doctor so that you can be properly diagnosed and treated.

Raising awareness in the clinical community
T1D Exchange has published this study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (September, 2016) with the goal of educating clinicians about the frequency of autoimmune disorders in people with type 1 diabetes. Raising awareness will lead to better diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes for people in the T1D community who also have autoimmune disorders.

About the study
The data for this study were obtained from nearly 26,000 participants with T1D who are enrolled in the T1D Exchange Registry. The data were used to analyze the types and frequency of autoimmune disease in people with T1D, and to learn whether there are relationships with gender, age, and race or ethnicity. The diagnoses of autoimmune diseases were obtained from the medical records of Registry participants.

Among the T1D Exchange participants:

  • 50% were female
  • 82% were non-Hispanic white
  • mean age was 23.0±16.9 years

Of these participants:

  • 27% (6,876) were diagnosed with at least one autoimmune disorder
  • frequency of 2 or more autoimmune disorders increased from 4.3% in participants under the age of 13 to 10.4% in those over 50 years of age