Diabetes and Bones: Seven Bone and Joint Conditions Diabetics Need to Be Aware Of

In addition to many of the more common effects of diabetes, diabetics are susceptible to several bone and joint conditions. Many bone and joint complications associated with diabetes can be treated or even cured if detected early.  That’s why, if you have diabetes, it’s important to make sure your physician is regularly checking for these conditions–and to stay alert to the signs and symptoms that you may be developing a problem.


Happy doctor talking to patient in clinic


Charcot Joint

Charcot joint, otherwise known as neuropathic arthropathy, is a condition where a joint degenerates because of nerve damage.  Diabetic neuropathy, the nerve damage caused by diabetes, is a primary cause of charcot joint today. Charcot joint most often afflicts the feet.

Symptoms: Tingling sensations, numbness, and loss of sensation in the feet are early signs of charcot joint, and of the diabetic neuropathy that leads to charcot. Swelling, unstable, and deformed joints are a later stage symptom.

Treatment: Charcot joint is a condition that is especially important to catch early, as most treatments are centered on slowing the progression of the joint degeneration. This is accomplished by limiting weight bearing activities and the guided use of assistive devices.


Diabetic Hand Syndrome

The disorder of diabetic hand syndrome, or cheiroarthropathy, involves a thickening of the skin on the hands and fingers. As with charcot joint, it’s more common in people who have been living with diabetes for an extended period of time.

Symptoms: Flesh may become waxy, and the stiffness makes it difficult or impossible to move fingers or lay palms flat.

Treatment: Although the exact cause of this disorder is unknown, it’s often associated with poorly managed blood glucose levels. Better management can help stop the disorder from getting worse and possibly prevent it.



Diabetics aren’t the only ones vulnerable to osteoporosis, but type 1 diabetics are at a higher risk for developing the condition. Osteoporosis is a loss of bone mass and density that leads to bones becoming brittle and easily broken.

Symptoms: There aren’t many early warning signs of osteoporosis, so you should speak with a physician about prevention and testing options appropriate given your age and overall health. They may suggest a bone density test, or offer medication designed to help reduce bone loss.

Treatment: Diet and exercise are key to maintaining healthy bone mass, and in treating osteoporosis. Make sure you are eating lots of calcium and vitamin D, getting some exposure to sunlight, and exercising regularly. If you aren’t sure how to work these minerals into your diet, are worried about your body’s ability to absorb them, or struggle to find an exercise routine that works for your mobility level and lifestyle, request an appointment with a professional.




Those with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk for osteoarthritis, a disorder that causes joint cartilage to break down. The degeneration of joint cartilage often means pain and loss of function in affected joints. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint.

Symptoms: Joints may become painful, inflamed, and stiff, and become less flexible and functional.

Treatment:  Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight is key to staving off and slowing down this condition. Resting the affected area, medication to control the pain, and other treatments such as acupuncture and therapeutic massage are the primary modes of treatment, though in rare or very advanced cases, surgery may also be advised.


Forestier Disease

Forestier disease is also known as diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH). It’s a disease that hardens tendons and ligaments, often along the spine. Type 2 diabetics are particularly vulnerable.

Symptoms: The affected part of the body may become stiff or sore, and will usually have a decreased range of motion. Back and neck pain and stiffness is common in cases affecting the spine.

Treatment: The symptoms are treated first, usually with pain medication and complementary treatments, such as therapeutic massage. Surgery may be used in extreme cases to remove bone growths.



Dupuytren contracture

This deformity causes fingers to bend in toward the palm due to thickened, scarred connective tissues in the hand and fingers. It’s seen more often in diabetics who have lived with the disease for a long time.

Symptoms: Thickened skin on the palm is an earlier sign, followed later by the inability to straighten your fingers.

Treatment: Steroid injections are sometimes used to treat pain. Surgery, enzyme injections, and other methods may be recommended in cases when the deformity interferes with a patient’s ability to grip objects.


Frozen shoulder

Diabetes is a risk factor for this condition, where shoulders (usually just one) become sore, stiff, and lose functionality.

Symptoms: Pain and stiffness in the shoulder are primary symptoms of this condition.

Treatment: As long as the condition is detected early, targeted physical therapy can help keep the joint functional.


If you are diabetic, and concerned about treating existing bone and joint issues or taking action to preserve your mobility, call 732-720-2555 to speak with our experts!