Diabetes mellitus can affect the muscle in several ways.
Patients with diabetes mellitus can develop contracture of fingers and toes (digits) and arms and legs (limbs) as a result of soft tissue thickening in these areas. This can lead to wasting of the muscle from non-use. This is referred to as atrophy.
Diabetes mellitus promotes atherosclerosis, which impairs bloodflow 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 (a condition called peripheral vascular disease resulting in claudication). In the worse case scenario, this can lead to death (infarction) of the localized areas of muscle. When the heart muscle is
affected by such atherosclerosis, it can lead to heart attack.
Blood tests can be done to diagnose muscle damage. These tests look for elevated muscle enzymes (CPK, aldolase).
Diabetes mellitus can also damage the nerves that supply the hands and feet, which can lead to inadequate nerve supply and further muscle wasting. Persons with long-term diabetes mellitus can develop pain, and muscle twitching, in addition to muscle wasting of the muscles around the shoulders and hips. This condition is referred to as diabetic amyotrophy.
In most people with diabetes, muscle strength is preserved well enough to allow for modest physical activity under a doctor's supervision.
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Archived: March 20, 2014
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