Diabetes currently affects approximately 33 million Americans. Actually, at least 8 million more than this have diabetes; they just don’t know it. This chronic health condition involves a dysregulation of sugar (glucose) in the blood. As a primary health problem, diabetes raises numerous other concerns, including diabetic eye disease, lowered immunity, and tissue breakdown. According to studies performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is a strong link between diabetes and arthritis. We can think of no better way to honor Diabetes Awareness Month than with a look at this connection.
There doesn’t seem to be a singular cause of arthritis in diabetic patients. Various bodies of research have pointed to contributing factors such as diabetic nerve damage (neuropathy), obesity, and arterial disease as triggers to bone and joint degradation. Whatever the role of diabetes in arthritic conditions, some of the common diagnoses among diabetic patients include:
- Osteoporosis, in which the bones becomes brittle and weak, increasing the risk of bone fracture anywhere in the body. To support bone health, patients are encouraged to take a quality calcium supplement on a daily basis.
- Diabetic hand syndrome is a condition in which the skin on the hands turns thick and waxy. If this condition, called diabetic cheiroarthropathy, becomes severe, the patient may not be able to fully extend their fingers. The disease process may be slowed with good blood sugar management and physical therapy.
- Dupuytren's contracture involves thickening of the connective tissue in the palm of the hand, which can prevent finger mobility and dexterity. Innovative injectable treatment may be performed to release the affected tissue.
- Frozen shoulder is a condition for which diabetics have a higher risk. This condition is characterized by pain and restricted range of motion in the shoulder. Early treatment may include physical therapy. Severe limitation may require surgery to restore joint function.
- Charcot joint disease involves symptoms such as swelling, tingling, numbness, and pain. Usually, non-surgical treatment is implemented to support the structure of the foot. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
Diabetes requires consistent management to reduce the secondary risks associated with excess glucose in the blood. Joint pain and symptoms of nerve compression in a joint should be evaluated right away; prompt treatment can prevent damage that requires surgical intervention.