Diabetic Cheiroarthropathy


Diabetic cheiroarthropathy is also called diabetic hand syndrome or stiff hand syndrome. People with this complication of diabetes lose mobility in their hands. Diabetic cheiroarthropathy affects around 30% of patients with poorly managed type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

While diabetic cheiroarthropathy is often painless, it can keep your hands from functioning fully. Similar conditions include Dupuytren’s contracture, trigger finger and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Diabetic cheiroarthropathy may cause a variety of symptoms, including:

  • Inability to fully extend or flex the fingers
  • Spontaneous extension of the fingers
  • Stiffness or swelling of the fingers, sometimes associated with pain
  • Tight or waxy skin on the back of the hand

The exact cause of diabetic cheiroarthropathy is unknown, yet experts agree poorly controlled diabetes mellitus, an umbrella term for all forms of diabetes, significantly increases a patient’s risk. 

Other causes may include:

  • Collagen. Diabetes often makes it more difficult for the body to replenish collagen that’s broken down in the joints.
  • Duration of diabetes. The longer a patient has diabetes, the more at risk they are for musculoskeletal complications.
  • Diabetic microangiopathy. Abnormally small blood vessels are often found in the organs and tissues of diabetes patients.

Prevention and management of diabetic cheiroarthropathy depends on proper management of a patient’s diabetes. Since risk for joint conditions rises the longer you experience diabetes, patients with diabetes need to properly maintain blood glucose levels through medication and lifestyle choices.

The most common complication of diabetic cheiroarthropathy is limited mobility of the hands and, for some patients, pain and stiffness in their fingers. These symptoms may make it more difficult for patients to go about their daily lives.

Microvascular conditions, including diabetic retinopathy, may be more common in patients with diabetic cheiroarthropathy or related joint conditions. Experts aren’t sure of the exact connection, but research indicates an increase in microvascular conditions in younger patients with diabetes and limited joint mobility in their hands.