Diabetes Self-Management Blog

One extremely common, if not always severe, condition associated with diabetes receives comparatively little discussion relative to other diabetes complications: Soft-tissue damage (believed to result from a buildup of glucose in the affected tissue) that leads to a fusing-together of collagen fibers and potentially constricts movement of the area.

Soft-tissue damage often occurs as frozen shoulder, characterized by pain throughout the shoulder and decreased range of motion in the joint. It can affect one or both shoulders. The condition usually starts with a “freezing” phase, in which there is an onset of a dull or aching pain and a loss of motion in the shoulder. This phase is followed by a “frozen” stage that is marked by an improvement in pain but with remaining stiffness. The final stage is “thawing,” during which the motion of the shoulder returns to normal. A recent article in The New York Times highlights the high prevalence of frozen shoulder in people with diabetes: At least 20% have it at some point, compared with between 2% and 5% of the general population.

Without the link between diabetes and soft-tissue damage in mind, people with diabetes might not think to mention the problem during diabetes-related checkups. They might even think of it as a consequence of stress or aging that doesn’t merit any thought or mention. Similarly, doctors might not think to highlight the relationship between blood glucose control and joint stiffness when a patient has not already raised the issue as a concern. And as the Times article notes, there are effective treatments for soft-tissue damage.

Have you had frozen shoulder or another soft-tissue complication? If so, do you feel that you were diagnosed and treated promptly and adequately? Do you have any advice or tips for others who experience this problem? Leave a comment below!

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