How Diabetes Affects Your Joints

07 Nov How Diabetes Affects Your Joints

Diabetes is characterized by problems with insulin and blood sugar, but it also has links with two types of arthritis. Diabetes affects your joints in other ways as well because it causes joint and nerve damage. Learn more about the connection between diabetes and your joints to help you pinpoint an effective treatment!


The Different Types of Diabetes

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 100 million people in the U.S. have either diabetes or prediabetes. This condition has to do with how your body processes food and how it uses/produces glucose. When you eat, your body processes your sugars into energy. Your hormones regulate your body processes, like energy production. Insulin is one such hormone that your pancreas produces that helps regulate your blood sugar (glucose) levels. It takes sugar out of your blood to be used for energy. However, for some people, this process doesn’t happen properly or at all. When your blood sugar isn’t regulated, it stays in your bloodstream, which can actually be fatal.


There are two main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. Most patients with type 1 are born with their regulation process already not functioning, although it is a type some people can develop. Type 2 is more commonly developed overtime depending on lifestyle, eating habits and sugar intake. With type 1, your body simply doesn’t produce insulin and you need insulin in the form of medication injected into your body each day. Type 2 is developed when your body doesn’t respond to insulin over time or you don’t make enough to counteract your sugars.


The Connection Between Diabetes and Arthritis

Arthritis is an umbrella term for joint pain or joint disease. Diabetes and arthritis are not the same conditions, but diabetes can lead to arthritis is many cases. That’s because inflammation in the joint tissue and fluid buildup around the bones cause them to deteriorate. Arthritis deteriorates your joints over time. Diabetes does the exact same thing, especially if you don’t manage your symptoms with medication, therapies and lifestyle changes.


Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

If you have diabetes, you can develop arthritis. Type 1 diabetes is more connected to rheumatoid arthritis, where the body’s inflammatory response destroys the joints. Osteoarthritis—where cartilage around the joints breaks down over time—is more commonly found with patients that have Type 2 diabetes.


If you have diabetes, you want to work closely with your doctor to help fend off the effects of arthritis—in any of its forms. Problems with insulin and glucose lead to the breakdown of soft tissues like ligaments and muscles. Inflammation buildup from that breakdown will wear down and deteriorate the bones, resulting in arthritis. The key is to regulate your diabetes as soon as you know you have it and to avoid diabetes if you are showing signs of insulin resistance.


Related Conditions

Carpal tunnel syndrome: Your carpal tunnel is an area where nerves in the hand pass through to give your hand feeling. The area is made up of connective tissue that can become swollen with overuse or repetitive motions. This leads to nerve compression that causes sharp pains, burning, tingling, numbness and permanent loss of feeling. Inflammation that causes this syndrome is common with diabetes and arthritis.

Trigger finger: This most commonly affects the ring finger or thumb and is similar to what happens with carpal tunnel syndrome. Tendons that connect to bones help the fingers to bend. When muscles become swollen or the area around tendons become inflamed, it makes it difficult for the fingers to bend.

Dupuytren’s contracture (+2nd source): Arthritis and diabetes both cause conditions that affect the nerves and muscles of the hands. With Dupuytren’s, it affects a layer of tissue just under the skin on your palm. Knots build up and start to pull your fingers inward, making them bent without fully being able to straighten again.

Charcot joint: Also known as “neuropathic arthropathy, this degenerative condition affects weight-bearing joints such as the foot. The bones wear down and deform, causing loss of sensation and function, which can affect walking and standing.

Diabetic hand syndrome: The National Institutes of Health state that this syndrome is a condition of uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. Both people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes can develop waxy, thickened skin, which doesn’t stretch well, causing finger movement to be limited. About ½ of type 1 patients develop diabetic hand syndrome.

DISH: “Diffuse Idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis” has to do with obesity risk and glucose intolerance. Both of these are common with both types of diabetes. Various metabolic functions become impaired and can’t form their proper function.

Frozen shoulder: Ligaments and tendons help the arm move, along with connective tissue. If that connective tissue becomes inflamed and swollen, or the joint is hard to move, you can get frozen shoulder.


Treating and Managing Joint Pain Caused by Diabetes

Diabetes can cause countless problems in the body because the condition damages blood vessels and circulation, tissues, organs, muscles, energy levels and more. To start, we recommend that you stop any and all tobacco products. Eat a balanced, nutritious diet or make an appointment for us to help you with your nutrition. You will have to work with a PCP to get the medications to counteract insulin resistance.


For joint pain and inflammation, we can provide you with key therapies such as anti-inflammatory injections, physical therapy, neuropathy treatment and more. Patients who invest in these therapies save their joints from unneeded pain and can help the joints last longer. If you have diabetes, prediabetes, or other chronic conditions, we can help. Call Mile High Spine & Pain Center today at (720) 507-0080 for your health evaluation and personal plan!




Mile High Spine & Pain Center