Many rheumatological conditions may exacerbate the clinical course of diabetes mellitus; one such condition is tendonitis. Patients who have diabetes are much more prone to develop problems with tendons than those without diabetes, most likely due to the blood supply being more sparse to the tendons than normal.
This means that very early diabetic changes in blood vessels may show up first in the tendons. Another plausible explanation for this is that high blood sugar may cause abnormal thickening of the tendons.The word “tendinopathy” itself refers to “injuries and inflammation of the tendons, the soft tissues that connect muscles to bones, usually due to overuse or repetitive movements.”
Common forms of tendon damage, which are more predominant in patients with diabetes and prediabetes, are carpal tunnel syndrome, tarsal tendon syndrome and frozen shoulder. Many physicians and healthcare providers are unaware of the link between diabetes and tendonitis. Unfortunately, improving blood glucose does not always have an immediate effect on improving the issue.

How does diabetes hurt my tendons?

Tendon damage in type 1 and type 2 diabetes happens because of substances called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). They form when protein or fat mixes with sugar in your bloodstream.
Some tendon problems you could get if you don’t get your diabetes under control are:

  • Frozen shoulder: Stiffness and pain that happens when a capsule that surrounds tendons and ligaments in your joint thickens up.
  • Rotator cuff tears: Damage to the tendons and muscles that surround your shoulder joint, including the supraspinatus muscle.
  • Trigger finger: Your finger becomes stuck in a bent position and straightens with a snap, like the sound of a trigger being pulled.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: You get numbness, tingling, and weakness in your wrist because of pressure on the nerve that runs through it.
  • Dupuytren’s contracture: Thickening of the tissue under the skin of your hand that causes your fingers to bend in toward your palm.

Tendon damage is painful and can hinder how much you can move your joint. Even if you have surgery to fix the damage, the tendon can tear again. Studies show that more than a third of people with diabetes who have surgery to fix a torn rotator cuff will get the problem again.

How can tendon damage affect my diabetes?

Exercise is important to help keep your diabetes under control, but you may find it harder to work out when your tendons are painful and stiff.
Talk to your doctor about ways to make sure your blood sugar levels stay down while you recover from tendon problems.

How can I prevent and treat tendon damage?

The best way to avoid tendon problems is to get your diabetes under control.
If you already have tendon damage, ask your doctor about treatments like these:

  • Pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Physical therapy and exercise
  • Heat or ice
  • A splint to keep your joint steady while your tendons heal


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