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Diabetic muscle weakness worse than thought: condition increases risk of falls

Muscle weakness in diabetes patients affects more areas of the leg than previously thought, increasing the risk of falls.

It is well understood that diabetes causes muscle weakness but was believed to be confined just to the distal muscles, towards the end of the leg such as in the calf muscle.

However, research published in the current issue of Diabetes Care, demonstrates that diabetes patients have substantial proximal muscle weakness – muscles further up the leg that include the quadriceps.

This extended weakness has consequences for patients’ ability to perform everyday tasks and exacerbates the negative effects of the diabetic condition. A greater muscle weakness is also associated with a higher susceptibility of falling, thereby increasing the risk of injury.

Researcher Professor Neil Reeves, Professor of Musculoskeletal Biomechanics at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “This muscle weakness with diabetes has important implications, meaning that patients may find everyday tasks more difficult and struggle to meet the demands of some tasks, thereby initiating a negative cycle of reduced activity, which negatively affects their diabetic condition.”

 Images taken from a diabetes patient
Right: images taken from a diabetes patient. Left: a control participant without diabetes. Top: mid-thigh scans. Bottom: calf scans. Darker areas on the patient’s images represent an increase in intramuscular noncontractile tissue (fat and connective tissue), which is highly correlated to insulin resistance and a reduction of muscle strength
Image: University of Manchester