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What Is Diabetic Amyotrophy?

Stephany Seipel
Stephany Seipel

Diabetic amyotrophy is a type of neuropathy, or nerve damage, that affects people who have diabetes mellitus. Patients with this experience severe pain and weakness in their hips and thighs. Doctors diagnose diabetic amyotrophy by performing electrodiagnostic testing. It usually heals on its own, but doctors sometimes prescribe medications to lessen the pain.

This condition, which is also called radiculoplexus neuropathy, is most common in middle aged and older adults. Men are affected more often than women. Patients with type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop the condition than those who suffer from type 1 diabetes. Around one percent of diabetic adults eventually develop diabetic amyotrophy.


This condition occurs when the nerve fibers are exposed to high glucose levels in the blood for extended periods of time. High blood sugar levels can deteriorate the capillary walls and impede the body's ability to send nerve signals. The nerve fibers eventually become damaged, which causes pain and weakness.

Severe, sharp pains occur in the buttocks, hip or thigh. The pain initially affects one side of the body, but it can spread to the other side within a period of weeks or months. The muscles in the affected area often become weak or atrophied. Some patients also experience pains in the stomach or arm muscles.

Patients with diabetic amyotrophy often lose weight without making a deliberate effort to do so. They might have problems standing up after sitting down. If the stomach is affected, the abdomen might swell. These symptoms might progress and worsen over a period of six to 18 months.

Most people who are diagnosed with diabetic amyotrophy have only had diabetes mellitus for a short time. Although they might have occasional difficulty regulating their blood sugar levels, these patients rarely demonstrate severe problems such as nephropathy, or kidney disease, that are often associated with long-term diabetes. In approximately a quarter of all cases, doctors discover that the patient is diabetic after diagnosing diabetic amyotrophy.

Doctors diagnose the condition by performing electromyography and other nerve conduction tests. These examinations evaluate the electrical discharges that are being generated in the muscles. The doctor might also check the patient's sensitivity to physical sensations or vibrations as well as his or her reflexes and muscle tone.

There is no cure for diabetic amyotrophy as of 2011. Doctors prescribe medications such as oxycodone and desipramin to lessen nerve pain. They might also recommend physical therapy. Patients can control the symptoms by keeping their blood sugar levels within a specific target range. Most cases improve on their own within a two- to three-year period.

Discussion Comments


I've had Type 1 since age 40 and I have had Amyotrophy since recovering from pneumonia three years ago. Does this form of neuropathy spread to the hands? I'm scared it has and that I will end up in a wheelchair. I want someone to be totally honest with me.


@kenspence20: There is a strong genetic factor in developing diabetes. Is there a chance you could have it at 45? You'd better believe it. My dad was diagnosed at 33. I was diagnosed at 39.

*But* the complications of diabetes can be greatly minimized and even prevented by getting a handle on your blood glucose levels.

See a doctor, get a complete blood workup and find out where you are, health-wise. Smoking doesn't make diabetes worse, as far as I know, but it isn't good for you, obviously, and if you are diabetic, it's in your best interests to stop smoking.

Getting a handle on your blood sugar now means a longer, healthier life down the road.


My mother died due to complications from diabetes. But before her death, her left leg atrophied and the doctor said it was because of diabetes amyotrophy. People say that diabetes is genetic. Is it possible for me to have this kind of disease? I am 45 years old and smoke one pack a day.

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