Pneumonia is a common but often severe respiratory infection. According to the American Thoracic Society, in the United States alone, around 1 million adults are hospitalized with pneumonia every year, and around 50,000 adults die from it.
Diabetes is a chronic condition with a range of symptoms to manage. It can also weaken your immune system and leave you at greater risk of serious infections such as pneumonia.
High blood sugar levels caused by diabetes can also make it harder for your body to fight pneumonia once it develops. This can lead to more severe cases of pneumonia and increased complications, including organ damage, respiratory failure, and even death.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone over 2 years old with diabetes gets a pneumonia shot to reduce this risk. Learn more about the connection between diabetes and pneumonia.
Adults with chronic conditions such as diabetes have an increased risk of developing pneumonia. This is because diabetes weakens your immune system. When you have diabetes, high blood sugar levels make it difficult for your white blood cells to fight infections.
Diabetes can also negatively affect the immune system by impairing your circulation and your nerves. This puts you at a higher risk of infections, including pneumonia. It also makes it harder for your body to fight infections when they develop.
In addition to having an increased risk of pneumonia, people with diabetes have an increased risk of pneumonia cases that are severe or even fatal. The CDC reports that people with diabetes are 3 times more likely to die of the flu or pneumonia.
Pneumonia can be mild or severe. However, pneumonia that doesn‘t get better without treatment can be very dangerous and lead to serious complications. Symptoms of pneumonia include:
It doesn‘t matter which type of diabetes you have. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes weaken your immune system. This means that either type increases your risk of pneumonia and other infections.
Diabetes increases your risk of pneumonia. However, there are steps you can take to lower your risk. These include:
People with diabetes are at risk of more severe cases of pneumonia. A 2015 review found links between diabetes and longer hospital stays, increased complications, and a higher risk of death from pneumonia. Higher blood sugar levels during a pneumonia infection increase these risks.
Additionally, a 2016 study suggests that people with diabetes have a decreased 1-year survival rate following hospitalization for pneumonia infection.
This doesn‘t mean that developing pneumonia when you have diabetes is always serious. However, it does mean that it’s important to seek medical care as soon as possible if you have diabetes and develop any pneumonia symptoms. Early treatment can significantly improve the outlook for people with diabetes who develop pneumonia.
Your recovery from pneumonia will depend on the type and severity of your pneumonia. Some people will respond to at-home treatment quickly and feel better in a week or two. Other people will need significant medical intervention at a hospital and might have lingering fatigue even after the infection clears.
People with diabetes might need to be monitored closely after recovering from pneumonia to make sure there are no lasting complications.
Not everyone who has diabetes and develops pneumonia will have complications. Because pneumonia is more likely to be severe for people with diabetes, complications are also more likely.
Complications of pneumonia for people with diabetes might include:
Diabetes increases your risk of pneumonia. It can also make it harder to fight off the infection once it develops. People with diabetes who develop pneumonia are more likely to spend more time in the hospital and have more severe symptoms, increased complications, and more fatal cases.
You can take steps to reduce your chances of getting pneumonia. A great way to start is by getting a pneumonia shot. Talk with a medical professional about other lifestyle steps, such as diet, diabetes management, smoking cessation, and more, that might also help lower your chance of getting pneumonia.
Contact a medical professional right away if you develop any symptoms you suspect might be pneumonia.
Last medically reviewed on January 14, 2022
Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.
Current Version
Jan 14, 2022
S. Behring
Edited By
Medically Reviewed By
Kelly Wood, MD
Copy Edited By
Alyssa Schad
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