Can Diabetes Cause Joint and Ankle Pain?

In this article, we will discuss diabetes and joint pain in detail and also provide tips for how to best…(continue reading)

If you have diabetes, you may be at risk of developing joint pain.

Diabetes is a condition that affects the way your body uses blood sugar which may lead to your blood sugar levels rising and becoming too high causing damage to many parts of your body, including your joints.

Diabetes can cause a wide variety of joint conditions, including ankle pain, hip pain, and knee pain.

In this article, we will discuss diabetes and joint pain in detail and also provide tips for how to best manage diabetic joint pain.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes, also called diabetes mellitus, is a chronic condition that affects your body’s ability to produce or use insulin.

Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels by allowing your cells to take in blood sugar (glucose) for energy.

When diabetes is not well-controlled, blood sugar levels can become too high, which can lead to a variety of complications including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and vision loss.

There are several different types of diabetes with the most common being type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes, is usually diagnosed in children and young adults and it occurs when your pancreas stops producing insulin.

Type 2 diabetes, which used to be called adult-onset diabetes, can develop at any age and happens when your cells become insulin resistant which allows your blood glucose levels to rise.

Gestational diabetes only occurs during pregnancy and goes away after your baby is born.

While there is no cure for diabetes, it can be managed through a combination of lifestyle changes, such as diet, exercise, and medication.

Diabetes infographic
CDC Diabetes Infographic

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

There are a number of different symptoms of diabetes, but the most common ones are increased thirst, frequent urination, and fatigue or muscle weakness.

Some of the other common symptoms of diabetes include:

If you have any of these symptoms, please see your doctor or health care provider for a diagnosis of diabetes or any underlying condition that may be causing them.

How does diabetes cause joint pain and ankle pain?

Diabetes can cause a number of different health problems, one of which is joint pain.

Joint pain is a common complication of diabetes and can be caused by a variety of different conditions that are associated with the disease.

The most common form of joint pain if you have diabetes is peripheral neuropathy, also called diabetic neuropathy when caused by diabetes, which is nerve damage to the peripheral nerves that send signals from your brain to the rest of your body which can create a variety of symptoms, including severe pain, tingling, and numbness in your hands and feet.

Diabetic arthropathy is another form of joint pain that can be caused by diabetes and is a degenerative condition that affects the joints.

As your joints wear down over time they can start producing symptoms such as thickened skin, changes in the position of your feet, and pain in your shoulders which can all eventually lead to other complications such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

Finally, poor blood circulation caused by diabetes can also lead to joint pain as the lack of blood flow prevents your joints from getting the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

Joint Pain with Diabetes

Other joint conditions that can be caused by diabetes include:

Osteoarthritis (OA)

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that happens when the cartilage that protects your joints starts to break down which can cause a number of symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and swelling in the affected joints.

It is the most common type of arthritis and usually is the result of being obese.

Type 2 diabetes is often caused by obesity, lifestyle choices, and an inability to maintain a healthy weight which makes osteoarthritis a common condition if you have type 2 diabetes.

When you have osteoarthritis, your body breaks down cartilage faster than it can be replaced which causes the bones to rub against each other.

When your bones constantly grind against one another it can lead to a number of symptoms such as pain, swelling, and stiffness in the affected joints.

In some cases, osteoarthritis can also lead to joint deformity and loss of range of motion.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in the lining of your joints which can lead to joint damage and pain.

RA is a chronic disease that can last for years and its cause is unknown.

The difference between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis is that RA is not caused by obesity.

Another autoimmune disease is type 1 diabetes and if you have type 1 diabetes you are at an increased risk of developing RA. 

Charcot’s joint

Charcot joint, also called neuropathic arthropathy or Charcot foot, is a condition that can be caused by diabetes that results in the breakdown of the joints.

It most commonly affects the feet and ankles if you are diabetic and can cause a deformed foot and joint pain. The symptoms of Charcot joint include:

  • Joint pain
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Heat radiating from a painful joint
  • Numbness in your ankle or foot
  • Changes to your feet and their structure

Permanent foot deformities can be prevented if Charcot joint is detected early.

If you notice any of these symptoms and have diabetes please see your doctor or podiatrist (foot doctor) for a foot exam.

What are the best ways to treat and manage joint pain?

There are ways to help manage and treat your joints. The best ways to do this are as follows:

Early detection

If you have pain in your joints it is important to see your doctor early for diagnosis and treatment.

The earlier you catch the condition the better chances you have of preventing permanent joint damage or long-term complications.

Weight management

Maintaining a healthy weight is important for overall health, but it is especially important if you have diabetes and are suffering from joint pain.

When you are overweight it puts more stress on your joints which can lead to further joint damage.

Furthermore, osteoarthritis is caused by obesity so managing your weight is important in preventing it.

Exercise

Exercising can help improve your range of motion and flexibility as well as help with weight management.

It is important to find exercises that do not put too much stress on your joints. Swimming is a great form of exercise if you have diabetes and joint pain because it takes the impact off of your joints.

Wear comfortable shoes

Although you do not need special shoes if you have these conditions, it is important to wear comfortable shoes that fit well and do not put too much pressure on your feet to help keep your feet healthy.

Closed-toed shoes also help keep your feet healthy by preventing cuts on your feet that can turn into foot ulcers while also providing more stability.

Wearing shoes that are too tight or have high heels can worsen joint pain and exacerbate any conditions you already have.

Medications

Taking your medications as prescribed by your doctor is important in managing your diabetes and joint pain.

There are a number of different medications that can help with the pain, swelling, and inflammation associated with joint conditions from over-the-counter pain relievers to prescription medications.

If you have rheumatoid arthritis and are at risk for type 2 diabetes, taking your prescription medications for your arthritis may also help in preventing you from getting type 2 diabetes.

Summary

Diabetes can cause several different joint conditions that may give you pain such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Charcot joint.

Both type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes make you more susceptible to joint problems so it is important to talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms.

Early detection, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and taking your medications as prescribed can help prevent and treat joint pain if you are experiencing it, and treatment options will vary depending on your underlying condition.

If you have diabetes and are experiencing joint pain or foot issues it is important to talk to your doctor or health care provider for diagnosis and treatment.

References and sources:

Mayo Clinic 

Healthline 

WebMD

Diabetes.org 

NIH

Fact Checked and Editorial Process

Diabetic.org is devoted to producing expert and accurate articles and information for our readers by hiring experts, journalists, medical professionals, and our growing Diabetic.org community. We encourage you to read more about our content, editing, and fact checking methods here. This was fact checked by Jacqueline Hensler and medically reviewed by Dr. Angel Rivera. 

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