A common but not often talked about complication of diabetes is Diabetic Hand Syndrome. This term serves as an umbrella for a number disorders. When they are detected early, they can often be treated successfully.
Both types of diabetes are associated with these ‘musculoskeletal disorders’ affecting the hand. Musculoskeletal pain affects our bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and nerves. The pain can be acute (having a rapid onset with severe symptoms) or chronic. There are several manifestations of diabetic hand syndrome including: limited joint mobility (LJM), Dupuytren’s contracture, stenosing tenosynovitis (trigger finger), carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), and a variety of other hand disorders or hand infections which people are at risk for with diabetes. It’s important to note that conditions listed under the category of diabetic hand syndrome occur in the general population as well.
These are often considered the most common or notable.
Limited Joint Mobility
LJM is a frequently overlooked and is considered a long-term complication of diabetes. It can be diagnosed by asking for simple signs such as a “prayer sign” or “table top sign”. Under normal conditions, each opposing hand or hand on surface will have full contact. If not, this means there are “flexion” contractures which initially painless, can be extremely painful and debilitating. Genetic susceptibility in combination with other factors such as longstanding hyperglycemia and a highly oxidative stress environment will add to the development of LJM.
Also known as Dupuytren’s disease is a hand disorder that usually develops over years. The condition affects a layer of tissue that lies under the skin of your palm. Knots of tissue form under the skin — eventually creating a thick cord that may or may not pull one or more fingers into a bent position. The Dupuytren’s Foundation and Reseach Group believe there are three types of Dupuytren’s disease listed here. Dupuytren is the name of the French surgeon who performed the first surgery in 1831.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
Diabetes has been proposed as a risk factor for CTS, but not all agree with the connection. CTS is a compression neuropathy that causes “pins and needles”, pain or numbness in the territory of median nerve. Generally, factors or conditions, which press or squeeze the median nerve at the wrist, lead to signs of this syndrome.
A common cause of pain and disability in the hand. It usually presents with discomfort in the palm during movement of the involved finger, usually the ring finger. Gradually, or in some cases acutely, the flexor tendon causes a painful click as the patient flexes and extends their finger. In some cases, it may even become locked. Trigger finger occurs when the affected finger’s tendon sheath becomes irritated and inflamed. This interferes with the normal gliding motion of the tendon through the sheath.