Diabetes Management

Can Diabetes Cause Muscle Thinning Over Time?

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By Apollo 24|7, Published on - 08 November 2023, Updated on - 17 December 2023

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Diabetes is a complex metabolic condition that can have various effects on the body, including changes in body composition. One of the observations made by some individuals with diabetes is the thinning of their legs over time. This phenomenon is often associated with specific factors related to diabetes, but it's essential to understand the underlying causes and consider how to manage or mitigate these changes.

Muscle Atrophy

Individuals with poorly controlled diabetes may experience muscle wasting (thinning) or atrophy. This is often due to prolonged high blood sugar levels, which can lead to the breakdown of muscle tissue.

Muscle atrophy can result from reduced glucose uptake by muscle cells, and altered protein metabolism and function. As a consequence, the muscles in the legs may gradually become thinner and weaker.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy is a common diabetes complication that affects the nerves, particularly in the extremities, including the legs.

Nerve damage caused by diabetes can lead to muscle weakness, loss of coordination, and decreased physical activity. When individuals are less active due to neuropathy-related discomfort or pain, their leg muscles may begin to weaken over time. 

Vascular Changes

Diabetes can impact the blood vessels, leading to poor circulation and reduced blood flow to the legs.

Inadequate blood supply means that less oxygen and nutrients reach the leg muscles. This can contribute to muscle wasting and, subsequently, thinner legs.

Inflammation and Fibrosis

Chronic inflammation is common in diabetes and can result in fibrosis or the formation of excess fibrous connective tissue.

Inflammation and fibrosis can affect skeletal muscle structure and function, leading to muscle wasting of limbs, especially legs.

Weight Loss

In some cases, individuals with diabetes may experience unintentional weight loss, which can contribute to thinner legs.

Weight loss may result from poorly controlled diabetes, decreased appetite, or other health issues. The loss of muscle and fat mass can lead to a reduction in leg size.

It's important to note that not everyone with diabetes will experience leg thinning, and the extent of these changes can vary among individuals. However, it's crucial to focus on diabetes management and lifestyle factors to help prevent or alleviate these effects:

  • Blood Sugar Control: Maintaining target blood sugar levels through proper diabetes management is essential to reduce the risk of muscle atrophy and neuropathy.

  • Physical Activity: Engaging in regular physical activity can help prevent muscle atrophy and promote leg strength. It can also improve circulation and alleviate neuropathy.

  • Resistance training: Exercise has proven particularly valuable in promoting increased muscle mass and can minimise or prevent the effects of diabetes on skeletal muscle.

  • Healthy Diet: Proper nutrition, including adequate protein intake, is crucial for preserving muscle mass.

  • Consulting Healthcare Providers: Individuals with diabetes should communicate any concerning changes in their legs or overall health with their healthcare providers for a comprehensive evaluation and personalised guidance.


Muscle thinning or weakness in diabetes can result from a combination of factors, including Skeletal muscle atrophy, peripheral neuropathy, vascular changes, inflammation, and weight loss. Managing diabetes effectively through blood sugar control, physical activity especially resistance training, a healthy diet, and regular medical check-ups can help mitigate these effects and promote overall well-being.

Diabetes Management

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