The diabetic hand: a forgotten complication?

J Diabetes Complications. May-Jun 2010;24(3):154-62. doi: 10.1016/j.jdiacomp.2008.12.009. Epub 2009 Feb 13.


The manifestations of diabetes in the hand were much discussed in the 1970s and 1980s. The present review aims to revisit the diabetic hand and to discuss the pathology of the hand that may be clinically important in diabetic patients. In the strict sense of the term, the "diabetic hand" encompasses the three most widely studied conditions which have traditionally been associated with diabetes, namely limited joint mobility, Dupuytren's contracture and trigger finger. There is evidence that these entities are significantly more frequent in patients with diabetes and also that they may be associated with diabetes duration, poor metabolic control and presence of microvascular complications. In a more general sense, though, there are other conditions affecting the hands, which also occur more frequently in diabetes. From a practical point of view, increased alertness both for neuropathic hand ulcers in patients with profound neuropathy and for diabetic hand infections is absolutely necessary. Recently, reduced hand strength is beginning to be recognized as a further complication of diabetes. Thus, the hand may reveal substantial pathology in diabetes, and ideally, clinical examination should not ignore it.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / etiology
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome / pathology
  • Child
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / pathology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / pathology
  • Dupuytren Contracture / etiology*
  • Dupuytren Contracture / pathology
  • Female
  • Hand / blood supply
  • Hand / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Trigger Finger Disorder / etiology*
  • Trigger Finger Disorder / pathology
  • Ulcer / etiology
  • Ulcer / pathology
  • Young Adult