I fielded a question earlier this week on my Facebook page in regards to a fellow type 1 diabetic having diabetic hand pain and issues with their hands being stiff and they seemed harder to move.
Immediately carpal tunnel syndrome popped into my head, but after she brought this up to her doctor and they ruled out carpal tunnel, they moved on to another diagnosis. A condition called diabetic hand syndrome (DHS). Honestly, I’ve never heard of DHS but like most things that grab my attention and not knowing much about something, I decided to see what this was all about. So what is DHS? Lets take a closer look!
What Is Diabetic Stiff Hand Syndrome?
So here we are, diabetic hand syndrome or as its more formerly know as, stiff hand syndrome or cheiroarthropathy. Stiff hand syndrome is one of the most common hand disorders for people with diabetes. Another common nerve and joint problem is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). Granted carpal tunnel is not caused by diabetes, but happens more often to people with diabetes, especially those who have diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetic Hand Syndrome Symptoms:
Stiff Hand Syndrome is painless and can effect both type 1 and type 2 diabetics. It usually begins in your little finger. Then it spreads over time to your thumb. This stiffness then keeps you from being able to straighten your fingers fully.
In addition, the skin on the back of your hand may also become thick, tight and waxy-looking. One way to tell if you have Stiff Hand Syndrome is to hold the palms of your hands together as if you are praying. If all of the skin and joints of your palms and fingers don’t touch, there is the possibility that you may have stiff hand Syndrome.
What Causes Diabetes Hand Syndrome:
While its not fully know, doctors believe that multiple factors are thought to be related to the underlying cause of diabetic stiff hand syndrome. One main theory is that certain symptoms (such as consistent high blood sugar readings) can increase the development of glycosylation.
No worries, I’m still having a hard time pronouncing it, but glycosylation is the process of sugar molecules attaching to protein molecules which increases and causes additional collagen in the skin.
Hand surgeon, Harry Belcher MS, FRCS also writes that changes to the composition of collagen which lead to abnormal accumulation of proteins in body tissue is a factor that can make hands stiffer. Also, diabetic microangiopathy ( a disorder of small vessels, and one of the major chronic diabetic complications involving diabetic retinopathy and nephropathy) and diabetic neuropathy are also considered to be among the contributing factors of diabetic stiff hand syndrome.
DHS Treatment Options:
There is currently no known way to reverse the effects of DHS but when it comes to treatment, you have a couple of options.
Like with everything else when it comes to diabetes, control of ones blood sugar levels is one of the most important aspects, both to help prevent the development of DHS and other complications.
In addition physical and occupational therapy are important to maintain hand mobility and prevent further loss of movement, so if this is something that you have been dealing with or something that has recently cropped up, make it appoint to discuss these options with your doctor. Or if perhaps you have or know an occupational or physical therapist, I’m sure they can provide some valuable insight as well and provide you with some exercises that will certainly help you out.
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