Can Diabetes Cause Muscle Pain?

  • Medical Author:
    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C)

    Ruchi Mathur, MD, FRCP(C) is an Attending Physician with the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism and Associate Director of Clinical Research, Recruitment and Phenotyping with the Center for Androgen Related Disorders, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Type 2 Diabetes Warning Signs

Ask the experts

How does diabetes mellitus affect the muscle?

Doctor's response

Diabetes mellitus can affect the muscle in several ways.

Patients with diabetes mellitus can develop contracture of digits and limbs as a result of soft tissue thickening in these areas. This can lead to wasting of the muscle from disuse. This is referred to as atrophy.

Diabetes mellitus promotes atherosclerosis which impairs the circulation to many tissues of the body. When the muscles of the limbs are affected, the decreased blood flow can lead to cramping and to painful walking (peripheral vascular disease resulting in claudication). In the worse case scenario - this can lead to death (infarction) of the localized areas of muscle. This is characterized by local pain in the involved area. Blood testing can demonstrate elevated muscle enzymes (CPK, aldolase). When the heart muscle is affected by such atherosclerosis, it can lead to heart attack.

Diabetes mellitus can also damage the nerves that supply the hands and feet. This can lead to inadequate nerve supply and further muscle wasting. Persons with longstanding diabetes mellitus can develop pain, and muscle twitching, in addition to muscle wasting of the muscles around the shoulders and hips (limb girdle wasting). This condition is referred to as diabetic amyotrophy.

In the majority of people with diabetes, muscle strength is preserved well enough to allow for modest physical activity under a doctor's supervision, This is not an excuse for someone with diabetes to refrain from physical activity!

Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care

REFERENCE:

Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2008.


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Reviewed on 6/6/2017

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