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Diabetes: A Significant Risk Factor for the Development of Osteoarthritis

Diabetes is a disease that affects many organs in the body including the eyes called retinopathy (ret-i-naa-pa-thee), kidneys called nephropathy (nef-ro-pa-thee), and nerves called neuropathy (neur-o-pa-thee). It is a leading cause of blindness and the most common cause of both kidney failure and nerve damage in this country. In addition, it is a major cause of heart disease and vascular disease. Now, we find that having diabetes is also a significant predictor for the development of severe osteoarthritis (OA).

A study from Diabetes Care, a published peer-reviewed journal,  followed over 900 patients for over twenty years that varied in age from 40 to 80 years old. The researchers found that diabetes was a very strong predictor for needing an arthroplasty, a surgical repair or replacement of the damaged joint. There was a significant increase in the number of people with diabetes who needed surgical intervention for OA compared to those who did not have diabetes. The authors concluded that diabetes is a significant risk factor for the development of OA.

If you have diabetes, your overall bone health is significantly compromised. Not only are you at risk for osteoarthritis but you are at significant risk for developing two other potentially debilitating bone conditions. One such condition is osteoporosis, or a loss of bone density. Thus, your risk of bone fractures increases with diabetes. In addition,  uncontrolled blood glucose levels increase the risk of developing a bone infection called osteomyelitis.

Paying close attention to your blood glucose levels is very important to help protect the health of your bones and to prevent the development of OA.

By: Dr. Rich Snyder, DO


  • Adami S. “Bone health in diabetes: considerations for clinical management.” Current Medical Research and Opinion. 2009 May; 25(5):1057-72. Schett G, Kleyer A et al. “Diabetes is an independent predictor for severe osteoarthritis: results from a longitudinal cohort study.” Diabetes Care 2013 Feb;36(2):403-9.

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