Pneumonia and Diabetes

People with diabetes are about three times more likely than the rest of the population to die from influenza or pneumonia, reports the Federal Centers for Disease Control. People with diabetes, if they develop pneumonia, are more likely to be sicker longer and to go to the hospital, says the CDC. Diabetics come down with the disease more easily, too.  

"Diabetics are definitely more susceptible to pneumonococcal pneumonia," says Steven Joyal, MD vice president of scientific affairs for Life Extension, an organization that helps people lead healthier lives. "What many people don't realize is that one of the characteristics of diabetes is that it weakens the immune system so diabetics are at risk for infections in general."

The mortality rate for diabetics, should they get pneumonia, is about 5 percent, Joyal says.

The Best Case for Prevention

There is a vaccine available that protects against pneumonococcal pneumonia, however. A pneumonia shot, available through your doctor's office or health clinics, can be gotten at any time of year, according to the CDC.

Side effects include mild redness or swelling in the arm where the injection was given, says the CDC. This should disappear in a day or two. Despite the fact that the pneumonia shot can decrease the risk of getting pneumonia, only about one third of diabetics actually get this simple vaccine, according to the CDC. The vaccine "is about 60 percent effective at reducing the risk of acquiring pneumonococcal pneumonia," Joyal says.

The vaccine usually offers enough protection for a lifetime, according to the CDC. Anyone under 65 who has a chronic illness or a weakened immune system should speak with their doctor about getting another shot 5 to 10 years after their first shot.

The pneumonia shot also is recommended for anyone age two or older who has a greater than average chance of getting pneumonia because of a chronic health problem like diabetes.

The added bonuses of getting the pneumonia vaccine:

  • The vaccine also protects you against other infections that are caused by the same bacteria, reports the CDC. Nationwide, about 10,000 people die annually because of bacterial infections.

  • The shot protects against meningitis, says the CDC, and 3 out of 10 adults who get this disorder, an infection of the covering of the brain, will die.

  • The shot protects against bacteremia, and 2 out of 10 adults who get this disorder, an infection of the blood, will die, says the CDC.

  • Remember, 1 in 20 adults who gets pneumonia will die of the lung infection. The bacteria that causes these infections is not to be taken lightly, so protect yourself today: sign up for the pneumonia shot.