The Link Between Trigger Finger and Diabetes

Jul 01, 2023

More than 37 million Americans have diabetes, a chronic metabolic condition that affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels. High blood sugar increases your risk of a range of related health complications, from cardiovascular disease to neuropathy.

One of the lesser-known complications? Trigger finger. It’s a painful condition that limits your hand mobility, but you don’t have to live with it. At Cascade Orthopaedics, our team works with you to diagnose and treat your pain to restore healthier function.

Here’s what you should know about the link between trigger finger and diabetes, along with some of the most common treatment options.

Identifying the symptoms of trigger finger

The medical name for trigger finger is stenosing tenosynovitis. It can affect any of your fingers (including your thumbs). It develops when your finger tendons get irritated, inflamed, and thickened.

The inflammation restricts movement in the affected finger, making it difficult or impossible to freely move or straighten it. Trigger finger gets its name because your finger might lock in a bent position, then suddenly snap back into place, resembling the action of pulling a trigger.

The connection between trigger finger and diabetes

While anyone can get a trigger finger, research has shown a link between diabetes and trigger finger. In fact, people with diabetes are up to 10% more likely to develop trigger finger compared to those without the condition.

The exact reason behind this link isn’t fully understood, but there are several possible contributing factors.

One possible cause is the accumulation of advanced glycation end products (AGEs) in the tendons. 

High blood glucose from diabetes can lead to the formation of AGEs, which can accumulate in various tissues, including tendons. This accumulation may impair your tendons' ability to glide smoothly, resulting in inflammation and trigger finger symptoms.

Diabetes-related complications like neuropathy and limited joint mobility can also make trigger finger more likely. 

Diabetic neuropathy affects your nerves and can lead to diminished sensation and altered muscle control. Reduced joint mobility can result from chronic inflammation and stiffness from high blood sugar levels, making your tendons more susceptible to injury.

Your trigger finger treatment options

If you’re living with diabetes, proactively managing your condition is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of complications, including trigger finger. And if you develop symptoms of trigger finger, seek proper medical care.

Our team takes a multifaceted approach to trigger finger treatment, with the goal to alleviate symptoms and improve finger mobility. Your options might include:

Rest and activity modification

As a first line of treatment, we may recommend limiting or avoiding activities that exacerbate your symptoms. A period of rest can reduce inflammation and allow the affected tendon to heal.

Depending on your symptoms, we might prescribe a splint or brace to immobilize your finger, provide relief, and allow the tendon to rest.


Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce pain and inflammation associated with trigger finger. In more severe cases, corticosteroid injections can offer significant relief by reducing inflammation and easing symptoms.

Exercise caution with corticosteroids, due to potential interactions with your diabetes management plan.

Physical therapy

We specialize in physical therapy, which can relieve trigger finger symptoms. Your therapist guides you through gentle exercises and stretches designed to improve finger mobility and reduce stiffness.

Surgical intervention

Many people find relief from nonsurgical trigger finger treatment. But if conservative measures fail, it might be time to consider surgery. Trigger finger surgery generally involves releasing the affected tendon sheath to allow for smoother movement and less pain.

The relationship between trigger finger and diabetes is complex, but you can manage both with the right care. To learn more about trigger finger and get a treatment plan that’s right for you, book an appointment at Cascade Orthopaedics in Auburn and Bonney Lake, Washington.

Call the office nearest you or request an appointment online now.