Long term high blood sugar can cause upper limb problems including frozen shoulder

  • January 23rd 2024

Having consistently high blood sugar can cause upper limb problems including frozen shoulder and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Until now it has not been known what factors cause the conditions, but new research led by our Genetics & Genomics researcher Dr Harry Green, employed genetic techniques across a largescale study to find out what caused a range of musculoskeletal problems – which are more prevalent in people with diabetes, or who are obese.

Funded by the Exeter Centre of Excellence for Diabetes Research (EXCEED), the team used data from more than 370,000 participants in the UK Biobank study. Researchers looked at what causes four conditions: frozen shoulder, Dupuytren’s disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, and trigger finger. All four conditions cause pain and reduced mobility in the shoulder, hand, wrist, or fingers.

Published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the research found that having consistently high blood sugar (known as glycemia) increased risk of all four conditions. In addition, the study found that having a high BMI can cause carpal tunnel syndrome.

Dr Harry Green said: “Our study consistently demonstrates that having high blood sugar over the long term causes these upper limb conditions. We can now classify them as diabetes complications. Clinicians treating diabetes patients should be aware of these complications in clinic, so they can advise on the best treatment pathways.”

The paper is entitled ‘Hyperglycemia is a causal risk factor for upper limb pathologies’, and is published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.