Type 2 diabetes is associated with an increased prevalence of respiratory symptoms as compared to the general population

BMC Pulm Med. 2017 Jul 17;17(1):101. doi: 10.1186/s12890-017-0443-1.


Background: To estimate the prevalence of respiratory symptoms in individuals with type 2 diabetes, as compared to the general population.

Methods: Between 2007 and 2010 the screening questionnaire of GEIRD (Gene Environment Interactions in Respiratory Diseases) study was administered to two samples of Verona general population, aged respectively 45-64 years and 65-84 years, and to a convenience sample of individuals with type 2 diabetes, consequently recruited at the local Diabetes Centre. Ninety-four and 165 people with type 2 diabetes, aged respectively 45-64 and 65-84 years, were compared with 676 and 591 subjects in the same age range from the general population. The influence of type 2 diabetes on respiratory symptoms was evaluated by logistic regression models, controlling for sex, age (45-54, 55-64, 65-74, 75-84 years), education level, smoking habits and heavy vehicle traffic exposure and adjusting standard errors of ORs for intra-sample correlation.

Results: Compared to the general population, dyspnoea limiting walking pace on level ground (grade 2 dyspnoea) was more frequently reported by people with type 2 diabetes, irrespective of age (p < 0.001), while self-reported chronic cough/phlegm was more common in those aged 45-64 years (p = 0.02). These results were confirmed by multivariable analysis: compared to their counterparts from the general population, people with type 2 diabetes aged 45-54 years showed an increased risk of reporting grade 2 dyspnoea (OR = 3.92, 95% CI 3.28-4.68) or chronic cough/phlegm (OR = 1.69, 1.60-1.78). Similar figures held significant at older ages (75-84 years), although partially blunted (dyspnoea: OR = 1.79, 1.68-1.91; chough/phlegm: OR = 1.09, 1.03-1.16). As such, the interaction between age class and type 2 diabetes was significant for both respiratory disorders. The proportion of self-reported dyspnoea among individuals with type 2 diabetes significantly increased across incremental body-mass index (BMI), from 15.4 to 25.4% and further to 41.3% respectively in normoweight, overweight and obese patients (p = 0.048).

Conclusions: People with type 2 diabetes more frequently reported grade 2 dyspnoea and chronic cough/phlegm than the general population of the same age, although presenting similar smoking habits. Diabetes appears to anticipate the lung ageing process, recorded in the general population. The increased occurrence of dyspnoea at incremental BMI among individuals with type 2 diabetes may reflect both cardiovascular and respiratory impairment in this high-risk patient population.

Keywords: Ageing; Asthma-like symptoms; Chronic cough/phlegm; Dyspnoea; Eczema; Obesity; Smoking; Type 2 diabetes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cough / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / physiopathology
  • Dyspnea / epidemiology*
  • Dyspnea / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ideal Body Weight / physiology
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Prevalence
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Sputum
  • Walking