Diabetes mellitus has many symptoms, including overactive bladder, excessive thirst and hunger, weight loss, a tingling sensation in the digits, and weakened vision. Another lesser known symptom of diabetes is muscle loss. The diabetic mechanism of muscle loss is multifactorial. In other words, diabetes can contribute to muscle loss in several ways. The three main ways muscle loss may occur in diabetics includes:
1. Muscle contracture and disuse
It is common for patients with diabetes to suffer from hardened muscles, or muscles that have contracted as a result of thickening soft tissue. This type of general diabetic muscle contracture can be pervasive, and makes it much harder for a patient to move or use their muscles. Movement becomes limited, and muscle disuse that leads to atrophy is the result.
While atherosclerosis and diabetes are not directly related, diabetes can promote atherosclerosis, or the thickening of arterial walls. This contributes to restricted blood flow, which can cause cramps, pain, or general discomfort. In severe cases, the lack of oxygenated blood to localized areas of muscle can cause infarction, or tissue death caused by restricted blood flow. Infarctions of the heart can lead to heart attacks.
3. Nerve damage
Lastly, infarction can cause the death of motor and sensory neurons that are involved in muscle movement and blood supply. The death of these vital neurons can further contribute to muscle disuse and atrophy, and can lead to muscle twitching and pain. An uncomfortable type of muscle atrophy in which the muscles of the shoulders and hips waste away, known as “limb girdle wasting”, is common in diabetics and often referred to as diabetic amyotrophy.
In all three cases, muscle loss occurs slowly, but is pervasive and difficult to manage. Without the proper lifestyle changes and treatments in place to support the patient’s quality of life, muscle range and movement continues to decrease, with muscle atrophy and loss being the inevitable result.
Treatments for Muscle Loss in Diabetics
One of the simplest ways to counteract the effect of diabetic muscle loss is to undergo testosterone replacement therapy. Low levels of testosterone are common in patients with diabetes, and while low testosterone by itself does not directly contribute to muscle loss, it does hinder new muscle gain. As a result, muscle disuse combined with low levels of testosterone can and will lead to muscle loss.
Testosterone replacement therapy can help patients with diabetes regain lost muscle by building new muscle with the proper workouts. Building new muscle leads to improved movement and restored muscle functionality, which in turn improves the overall quality of life for patients with diabetes who experience muscle loss.
Patients with diabetes who believe they may be suffering from muscle loss may consider calling Ageonics Medical for a testosterone replacement therapy consultation. Dr. Olivieri has decades of experience treating low testosterone, and has helped hundreds of patients improve their quality of life by normalizing testosterone levels and restoring mobility.