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What is the Connection Between Diabetes and Joint Pain?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2016
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Diabetes and joint pain are closely connected, as diabetes can predispose patients to a number of bone, joint, and soft tissue disorders. There are some steps people can take to limit the chance of diabetic complications like damage to the joints. Most importantly, patients need to control their diabetes, making adjustments to their treatment plans if their blood sugar is difficult to control and taking proactive steps like changing diet and exercise habits. If the diabetes is well controlled, the patient's risk of complications decreases significantly.

Nerve damage is a common problem in diabetic patients. This may result in joint pain or other unwanted sensations like tingling and stinging because the nerves around the joint are misfiring. Patients can also experience a problem called Charcot joint, where nerve damage makes it harder to detect pain, and the patient incurs injuries without being aware of it. This can be a big problem in the knees and ankles, and may lead to serious injuries if patients are not attentive.

Patients with diabetes and joint pain may have chronic joint inflammation. Diabetes can increase the chances of inflammation and slow healing times. Over time, this may result in permanent damage to a joint and the development of arthritis or related conditions. Diabetic patients are also at increased risk for osteoporosis, which can cause fractures and joint problems later in life. Regular medical evaluations can identify early signs of bone and tissue damage in patients with diabetes.

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Diabetes and joint pain can be related with conditions like trigger finger or frozen shoulder, where the patient's range of motion is limited by inflammation. Diabetic patients are more likely to develop these conditions, especially when they have chronic poorly controlled diabetes. There is also the risk of developing a condition called diabetic hand, where the patient's skin thickens and swells, limiting range of motion and causing pain and discomfort in the fingers.

Blood sugar levels are not directly correlated with joint pain, and patients shouldn't experience spikes in pain when their blood sugar is too high. Over time, though, the high blood sugar can contribute to inflammation and cumulative damage. Diabetes and joint pain are commonly seen together, especially in older patients, people with severe diabetes, and patients who do not adequately control their disease. Once the diabetes and joint pain damage onsets, it can be difficult to reverse, and the patient needs to focus on preventing further injuries by protecting the joints and managing the diabetes more effectively.

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