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How Diabetes Affects Your Bones
How Diabetes Affects Your Bones

Diabetes is on the rise, with more than 24 million Americans being affected by the disease. What’s even more frightening is type 2 diabetes, which usually affects adults is now showing up in children. The complications caused by diabetes such as limb loss and heart disease are equally disturbing. In fact, 60% of all non-traumatic lower limb amputations performed in the US are due to diabetes.

Another important consideration is the serious damage diabetes can do to your bones. This can occur in several ways:

  • Increased blood sugar levels inhibit bone-forming cells from building strong bones.
  • Certain oral diabetic medications cause bone loss as a side effect.
  • Diabetic kidney damage results in loss of calcium required for strong bones.
  • Joint deterioration due to nerve damage caused by diabetes.
  • Increased risk of falls resulting in bone fractures due to diabetes-related nerve damage, poor vision, and low blood sugar.

Below is a list of bone conditions associated with diabetes and how to treat them. They include:

  • Osteoporosis: Low bone mineral density resulting in weak bones. A healthy lifestyle which includes weight-bearing exercises and a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is the best way to treat this condition.
  • Osteoarthritis: Breakdown of joint cartilage. Management involves leading an active lifestyle, avoiding too much stress on the joint and surgical repair in case of severe deterioration of the joint.
  • Charcot Joint: Joint deterioration due to diabetes-related nerve damage causing numbness, tingling, and loss of sensation usually in the feet. Early detection and treatment of diabetes can halt the worsening of symptoms. Use of orthotic supports and limited weight-bearing is also helpful.
  • Diabetic Hand Syndrome: Waxy and thickened skin on the hands, limited finger movement, and inability to press the palms together. Physical therapy and improved blood glucose management helps to slow progression of this condition.
  • Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis: Hardening of the ligaments and tendons usually affecting the spine resulting in pain and stiffness of the back or neck. Your doctor may prescribe medications to help relieve pain. In rare cases, surgical removal of abnormal bone formation is recommend.
  • Dupuytren’s Contracture: Thickened and scarred connective tissue of the palm and fingers causing a deformity of the hand. Steroid and enzyme injections are usually administered to break apart the thick tissue. Surgery is indicated in severe cases.
  • Frozen Shoulder: Painful limitation in range of motion of the shoulder. Physical therapy and surgical measures are the treatment choices to preserve range of motion.

Understanding how diet, physical activity, and other lifestyle factors can affect your bone mass is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. These factors can help to build strong bones and keep diabetes at bay.


Dr. Domb is a nationally recognized orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and arthroscopic surgery of the hip, shoulder and knee. A noted pioneer in advanced new techniques in hip arthroscopy, he delivers innovative treatments for patients with hip injuries such as impingement and labral tears. Dr. Domb is also an expert in arthroscopic surgery of the shoulder and knee, adept in specialized techniques including arthroscopic rotator cuff repair and all-inside ACL reconstruction.

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