A new study has revealed that the associations between type 1 diabetes and asthma in children are more complex than originally thought.
Finnish scientists have reported findings where a prior diagnosis of asthma was linked with an increased subsequent risk of type 1 diabetes by 41%, while a previous type 1 diabetes diagnosis decreased the risk of subsequent asthma by 18%.
The study was a large, nationwide review of children born in Finland between 1981-2008. A total of 81,473 children diagnosed with asthma up to the age of 16 were identified using the Central Drug Registry, as well as 9,541 children with type 1 diabetes.
These children were then referenced against a 10% random sample of children selected from each birth year as researchers investigated transition rates between healthy and autoimmune disease states from birth.
Following adjustment for variables such as sex and birth decade, children with asthma were more likely to develop type 1 diabetes compared with healthy children. But asthma developed less frequently in kids with existing type 1 diabetes.
“The findings of the present study imply that the association between the diseases is more complex than previously thought, and its direction depends on the sequential appearance of the diseases,” said the authors.
In children with both autoimmune disorders, asthma was diagnosed before type 1 diabetes in 75.7% of children, while 20.9% had type 1 diabetes diagnosed before asthma, and 3.3% were diagnosed with both conditions within the same month.
One reason for this associatio, the researchers hypothesise, is the use of inhaled corticosteroids in the treatment of asthma, however the role of this therapy within the development of diabetes is still a subject of debate.
The study team state their research merits further investigation into the relationship between the two autoimmune conditions.
The findings have been published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

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