4 Orthopedic Issues Associated with Diabetes


Diabetes actually affects several anatomical systems as the endocrine system is the key. Our pancreas – a key player in the endocrine system – regulates the excretion of insulin. But, sugar originates in our digestive system, travelling through the blood to deliver energy to the entire body. With the aid of insulin, the pancreas can deliver sugar to energy-needy cells. If our cells don’t receive this energy due to diabetes-related insulin deficiencies, problems can ensue. This is especially true with the skeletal and neurological systems.

Diabetes can impact the health and development of our skeletal system and nerves. What we are not completely sure of is the exact reasoning for this relationship. What we do know: diabetes leads to inflammation, nerve damage, and can either accelerate or inhibit bone development and healing. Some clinicians believe that insulin promotes bone growth. For example, too much insulin can lead to too much bone growth, whereas not enough insulin can lead to weakened bones. Researchers also believe that the inflammation caused by diabetes leads to nerve damage, neuropathy, and joint pain.

close up of the bottom of a man’s foot

Orthopedic Issues Linked to Diabetes

  1. Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is a condition characterized by the degeneration of cartilage between the main joints in the body. The primary cause for this degeneration includes age-related wear and tear, obesity, and nerve inflammation. Individuals with Type II Diabetes are also prone to obesity and inflammation, which can accelerate the development of symptoms.
  2. Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis is a disorder that leads to weakening, fragile bones. Osteoporotic bones can become so fragile that they become porous and actually resemble the structure of a sponge. Individuals with Type I Diabetes have been shown to have an increased co-occurrence of osteoporosis due to a lack of insulin to promote bone development.
  3. DISH: Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis, also called as Forestier’s disease, results in a hardening of the connective tissues. This can lead to pain, stiffness and immobility, especially in the spine. Again, this hardening is most often found in those with Type II Diabetes and can be attributed to insulin-related bone growth.
  4. Increase Risk for Fractures: With osteoporosis, neuropathy, and the development of hardened ligaments, the potential for fails increases substantially. This can increase susceptibility to fractures, especially in the hips and joints of the extremities.
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