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Autoimmune disease and diabetes: Autoimmune thyroid disease and diabetes

Autoimmune Disease and Diabetes

Autoimmune thyroid disease and diabetes

The thyroid is a gland that makes hormones. These hormones affect how the body uses energy (metabolism). Autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD) is a group of health problems. They’re caused when antibodies that normally attack germs attack the thyroid instead. These antibodies can either turn on the thyroid (hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease) or turn it off (hypothyroidism, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis). AITD happens in 15 to 30% of people with type 1 diabetes.

Screening and Tests

Thyroid disease is found with blood tests. These blood tests measure the levels of hormones, like TSH, T4, T3, and Free T4. If you have diabetes and thyroid/celiac disease, you may be at risk for other autoimmune disorders. Talk to your healthcare provider about this.

Effects on Diabetes

When the thyroid doesn’t work normally (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism), it can affect blood sugar control in people with diabetes.

Hyperthyroidism and Diabetes

Hyperthyroidism usually makes it harder to control blood sugar. The thyroid makes too much hormone, causing more sugar in the liver, which the intestines absorb very quickly. This causes insulin resistance, when the body doesn’t use insulin very well. That means a person with hyperthyroidism might need a higher dose of insulin.

Hypothyroidism and Diabetes

Hypothyroidism rarely causes big changes to blood sugar control in people with diabetes. The thyroid doesn’t make enough hormone, which can make insulin stay in the blood longer. That means a person with hypothyroidism might need a lower dose of insulin.


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Current as of: October 21, 2020

Author: Primary Care and Chronic Disease Management, Alberta Health Services

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