How Does Diabetes Cause Joint Pain?

Does diabetes cause joint painDiabetes is a condition that requires constant monitoring. If the condition is managed properly, you can live a happy day-to-day life. But left unchecked, diabetes can lead to a myriad of other health issues including nerve damage and chronic joint pain.

According to the American Arthritis Foundation, people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop arthritis and debilitating joint pain if the condition is unmanaged.

Other factors related to diabetes—such as arterial disease, obesity, and diabetic neuropathy—also heighten your chances of suffering from joint pain.

But how exactly does a blood sugar-related condition affect the health of your joints? Read on to find out!

What is Diabetic Arthropathy?

The reality of living with diabetes is that it takes a toll on the body. Over time, this can develop into a condition known as diabetic arthropathy, i.e. damaged joints. It’s characterized by a thickening of the skin, painful shoulder joints, the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome, and changes in the feet.

The joints of the body help to provide cushioning and protection between the bones. When these areas begin to deteriorate, this much-needed protection is lost leading to painful bone-on-bone friction.

Diabetic arthropathy comes in various forms:

Charcot’s Joint

Charcot’s Joint, also known as neuropathic arthropathy or “Charcot Foot”, is a condition involving the degeneration of bones, joints, and soft tissue due to decreased nerve function. Most commonly affecting the foot and ankle, this progressive condition typically follows an untreated injury or infection and is especially common among diabetics due to the loss of sensation associated with diabetic nerve damage (neuropathy).

Common symptoms of Charcot’s Joint include:

  • Painful, swollen joints
  • Redness and warmth in the affected area
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Changes in the appearance of the feet

Without treatment, Charcot’s joint can lead to bone and joint deformity, loss of function, and—in extreme cases—amputation. Be sure to talk to your doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms to prevent permanent damage.

Osteoarthritis (OA)

This is the most common form of arthritis and a frequent health issue among people with type 2 diabetes. Unlike Charcot’s joint, OA is not traditionally known to be a direct cause of diabetes, but more often caused by shared risk factors—such as age and obesity. However, more recent studies have shown that hyperglycemia may also have an impact on cartilage health and the development and/or progression of OA.

OA is characterized by deteriorated cartilage between the joints which wears down over time. This causes bone-on-bone friction, resulting in chronic joint pain.

Common symptoms of Osteoarthritis include:

  • Stiff or sore joints following inactivity or overuse
  • Limited range of motion that eases with movement
  • Clicking or grating sensation when bending
  • Swelling, pain, or tenderness in or around the joint

While natural wear and tear of joints is common as we age, conditions such as diabetes and obesity can only accelerate this process. According to the Arthritis Foundation, “Every pound of excess weight exerts about 4 pounds of extra pressure on the knees. So a person who is 10 pounds overweight has 40 pounds of extra pressure on his knees; if a person is 100 pounds overweight, that is 400 pounds of extra pressure on his knees.” In other words, losing just 10 pounds would relieve 40 pounds of pressure from your knees.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis is most commonly linked with an autoimmune disease, but the exact cause of RA is unknown. Type 1 diabetes is classified as an autoimmune disease, which means that those with type 1 are far more at risk of developing RA over time. RA and type 1 diabetes share inflammatory markers in the body, increasing levels of interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein.

Common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Joint pain, swelling, or tenderness in or around the joints
  • Stiffness (especially in the morning, but can last more than an hour)
  • Multiple joints affected including small, non-weight bearing joints
  • Same joints affected on both sides of the body

Symptoms can come and go without warning and can last for months on end. While there is no cure for RA, there are treatment options available to help manage it. Talk to your doctor to determine a plan that is best for you.

Are You Suffering from Chronic Joint Pain? We Can Help!

Our team of highly-experienced orthopedic doctors is committed to helping patients find relief from chronic joint pain. Contact us today to learn how we can help you!

— Update: 08-01-2023 — found an additional article How can diabetes cause joint pain? from the website for the keyword does diabetes cause joint pain.

Diabetes is a chronic condition that doctors characterize as problems with insulin and blood sugar, also known as blood glucose. Insulin is a hormone that delivers blood glucose into the body’s cells.

If a person has high blood glucose levels too often and they do not receive treatment, it can lead to a range of health conditions.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that occurs when the pancreas does not produce insulin. In contrast, type 2 diabetes is an acquired condition. It causes the body to produce less insulin, and the hormone does not function effectively.

There are a few different ways that diabetes can cause joint pain.

Musculoskeletal problems

Over time, if a person does not receive effective treatment, diabetes can lead to the breakdown of the musculoskeletal system. This can involve joint damage and a limited range of joint movement.

Diabetes can also cause changes in nerves and small blood vessels. As a result, hand abnormalities are very common among people with the condition.

Certain joints conditions tend to develop in individuals with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The joint problems often correlate with the duration and control of diabetes.

These conditions include:

  • carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Dupuytren’s contracture, or drawing up of the palms
  • trigger finger

Some people with diabetes develop thickness of the skin on the fingers along with decreased joint mobility.

They may also experience shoulder pain due to frozen shoulder or rotator cuff tendinitis.

When there is damage to the joints, the cushioning no longer works as effectively. As a result, the bones can rub together, causing inflammation, stiffness, and pain. A person may also experience limited joint mobility.

Charcot’s joint

Charcot’s joint, also called neuropathic arthropathy, results from nerve damage due to diabetes. The medical term for diabetes-related nerve damage is diabetic neuropathy.

Diabetic neuropathy can cause numbness in the extremities, such as the feet and ankles. Over time, a person may feel little or no sensation in these areas. It can be easier to twist or break a foot, for example, without realizing the extent of the damage.

Small breaks and sprains can put pressure on the joints of the foot. A reduction in blood supply and mechanical factors contribute to joint damage and physical deformities over time.

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In some cases, a person may be able to help prevent this damage.

The following are some warning signs of Charcot’s joint:

  • redness or swelling
  • numbness
  • pain in the joints
  • areas that feel hot to the touch
  • changes in the appearance of the feet

If Charcot’s joint, or neuropathic arthropathy, is causing pain, avoid using the affected foot until it heals.

If the feet are numb, consider using additional support, such as orthotics. Doctors usually treat Charcot’s joint with a cast.

Rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes

Both rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and type 1 diabetes are autoimmune disorders, meaning they both cause the immune system to attack an otherwise healthy part of the body.

In a person with RA, the immune system attacks tissues in the joints, causing swelling, pain, and deformities. And in an individual with type 1 diabetes, the immune system attacks the pancreas, stopping the production of insulin.

Both RA and type 1 diabetes involve inflammation, and certain clinical signs of inflammation — including C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 levels — are consistently high in people with either condition.

Having one autoimmune condition can increase the risk of developing a second. This helps explain why type 1 diabetes and RA can coexist.

Osteoarthritis and type 2 diabetes

Unlike type 1 diabetes, type 2 has strong links to excess body weight. Being overweight or having obesity also increases a person’s risk of developing osteoarthritis (OA), as the weight puts extra stress on the joints, particularly in the lower body.

A person can reduce their risk of developing type 2 diabetes and OA by maintaining a moderate weight through a nutritious diet and regular exercise.

If a person has either condition or both, reaching and maintaining a moderate weight can improve symptoms. According to the Arthritis Foundation, studies show that losing 1 pound (lb) of weight in people with overweight or obesity can result in losing up to 4 lb of pressure on the knees. Alternatively, losing 10 lb can relieve 40 lb of pressure from the knees.

Additionally, in a person with type 2 diabetes, losing 5–10% of their total body weight can reduce their blood sugar levels significantly. As a result, they may need to take less medication for the condition.

— Update: 08-01-2023 — found an additional article Can Joint Pain Be a Symptom of Diabetes? from the website for the keyword does diabetes cause joint pain.

If you have diabetes (a chronic condition of high blood sugar), you are likely to develop joint pain, especially if your blood sugar isn’t controlled by diet or medication.

This article will explore the connection between joint pain and diabetes, including the causes and treatment, as well as management, of joint pain in diabetes.

dragana991 / Getty Images

What Is Joint Pain?

Joint pain can affect your knees, hips, fingers, or other joints in the body—places where bone meets bone. If you have diabetes, you are predisposed to certain types of joint pain, which can develop over time. Joint pain related to diabetes is called diabetic arthropathy.

Is Joint Pain a Symptom of Diabetes?

Joint pain can be a symptom of either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder in which the body doesn’t produce insulin (a hormone that controls blood sugar). In type 2 diabetes, the body is resistant to the action of insulin or doesn’t make enough of it.

Symptoms of diabetic arthropathy in a joint include:

  • Aching or dull pain
  • Swelling and redness
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Limited mobility

Here are some common causes of joint pain associated with diabetes.


High blood sugar promotes the production of substances in the body that are linked to joint inflammation and joint damage, which can cause pain. Inflammation is a reaction of the body to fight possible invading microbes or toxins. But it can be triggered mistakenly and result in damage to the body’s own tissues.

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Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy can be the first sign of diabetes. Neuropathy (nerve damage) is a common complication in people with diabetes. Chronic high blood sugar and high blood triglycerides (a form of fat) in diabetes can lead to nerve damage.

Diabetic neuropathy can cause pain, numbness, and a tingling sensation in the joints, often in the lower extremities. Reduced sensation and proprioception (sensing where a limb is) can lead to falls or small injuries. The effects of these traumas can build up to cause changes in joint structure and chronic joint pain.

One form of diabetic neuropathy, called Charcot foot, causes swelling and can damage the bones and joints of the feet.

Limited Joint Mobility

Stiff joints can be painful. Some people with diabetes may develop diabetic hand syndrome, or diabetic cheiroarthropathy, which makes it hard to move the joints in your hands and also makes the skin tighten. These symptoms can be an early sign of diabetes or may develop in people with prediabetes.

Frozen shoulder, in which the collagen that forms a capsule around the joint tightens and makes it hard to move the arm, is not unommon in people with diabetes.

Treatment and Management of Joint Pain

Managing joint pain when it is a symptom of diabetes is usually similar to managing it for other causes of joint pain. Treatment may include:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight to relieve stress on the joints
  • Monitoring and treating high blood sugar as recommended
  • Following an exercise regimen to strengthen joints and retain flexibility
  • Physical therapy
  • Rest if recommended by your healthcare provider
  • Pain medication as recommended by your healthcare provider

If your joint pain is due to an autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, your healthcare provider may prescribe a pain medication called Arava (lefluonamide) that may also help lower your blood sugar and risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

When to See a Healthcare Provider

Call a healthcare provider if you’re experiencing swelling, redness, pain, or numbness in your joints. Joint pain connected to diabetes can't be cured, but it can be treated. If left untreated, it may be more likely to lead to permanent joint damage and loss of mobility.

Follow your healthcare provider's recommendations and keep all follow-up appointments to manage your diabetes and keep your blood sugar well-controlled.


Joint pain can be a symptom of diabetes and can affect people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The symptoms include aching, swelling, tingling or numbness, redness, and lack of mobility. High blood sugar in diabetes can lead to increased inflammation and nerve damage, and other effects that can result in joint pain.

Your provider can recommend treatment for joint pain that is a symptom of diabetes, which can include lifestyle changes like losing weight and exercising or medications that can address inflammation. Keeping your blood sugar under control will also help lower the risk of permanent joint damage.

A Word From Verywell

Treatment for diabetes has come a long way, but it's a condition that requires a lot of attention if you have it, whether it's type 1 or type 2. Maintaining your general health can help minimize some of the joint pain that can develop as a symptom. A healthy diet and activities as recommended by your healthcare provider are worth the effort so you can retain your quality of life.


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