People with diabetes are at greater risk of bone fractures

  • Research released during Diabetes Awareness Week (8-14 June 2020) shows people living with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are at greater risk of bone fractures
  • One in 15 people in the UK have diabetes, but until now bone fracture was not a well-known complication of the condition
  • People with type 1 diabetes are at increased risk of hip fractures compared to people with type 2 diabetes
  • Severity and length of time someone has lived with the condition increases risk of fractures for those with type 2 diabetes

Image of an arm fracture xray.

People living with diabetes are at greater risk of bone fractures, new research led by the University of Sheffield has found.

The research, conducted in collaboration with scientists from Sutter Health, concluded that people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of suffering hip and non-vertebral fractures (those not occurring in the spine or skull).

The findings, revealed during Diabetes Awareness Week (8-14 June 2020), show people with type 1 diabetes are at greater risk than people with type 2 diabetes, however insulin use and length of time someone has lived with the condition further increased the risk for people with type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes has a number of widely-known complications, however this study highlights the impact of the condition on bone health – specifically fractures.

Lead researcher Dr Tatiane Vilaca, from the University of Sheffield’s Mellanby Centre for Bone Research, said: “Diabetes can cause a number of well-known complications including kidney problems, loss of eyesight, problems with your feet and nerve damage. However, until now many people with diabetes and their doctors are unaware that they are also at greater risk of bone fractures.

“We need to raise awareness about the greater risk people with diabetes face to help them to prevent fractures. For example, preventing falls can reduce their risk of fracture.

“Fractures can be very serious, especially in older people. Hip fractures are the most severe as they cause such high disability. Around 76,000 people in the UK suffer a hip fracture every year and it is thought as many as 20 per cent of people will die within a year of the fracture. Many others don’t fully regain mobility, and for many people it can cause a loss of independence.”

One in 15 people in the UK have diabetes – a serious condition where your blood glucose level is too high. There are two main types, type 1 – when your body can’t make insulin at all, and type 2 – when the insulin your body makes either can’t work effectively, or you can’t produce enough of it.

Professor Richard Eastell, Professor of Bone Metabolism and Director of the University of Sheffield’s Mellanby Centre for Bone Research, said: “This important research highlights the urgent need for doctors to evaluate the risk of fracture for patients with diabetes and also to look at potential treatments which may help to reduce that risk.

“We hope that by raising awareness about the greater risk people with diabetes face, bone density and bone strength will become something that doctors assess routinely in patients with the condition in the same way they do currently for other well-known complications.”

The research published online in Bone was conducted in collaboration with researchers from the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR) and the University of California.

Steven Cummings, M.D., from Sutter Health, California, said: “Patients with diabetes and the doctors who care for them should be aware of the increased risk of fractures. Patients are encouraged to ask their doctors what to do about that risk, and doctors should assess the risk and consider treatment to reduce that risk.”

The University of Sheffield’s Mellanby Centre for Bone Research offers the opportunity for postgraduate research into musculoskeletal aging, fast becoming one of the key global health challenges of the future.

Additional information

  • The study is available to read at Bone.

/Public Release. The material in this public release comes from the originating organization and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. View in full here.