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10 Warning Signs of Diabetes That Show Up on Your Skin

10 Warning Signs of Diabetes That Show Up on Your Skin

As you may know, diabetes affects most organs, including the nervous system, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and the skin. Interestingly, some people showcase signs of diabetes on their skin before the diagnosis is even made.

If you experience warning signs of diabetes on your skin, it could either mean that you have undiagnosed diabetes or that your treatment plan to control blood glucose levels is not working properly.

In this article, we will take a look at 10 warning signs of diabetes that show up on your skin and how they could help you diagnose this condition early.

10 warning signs of diabetes that show up on the skin

1.     Shin Spots (i.e., Diabetic Dermopathy)

One of the most common skin manifestations that’s associated with diabetes is diabetic dermopathy. This appears as round or oval spots of discolored skin that are usually brown or reddish-brown. They are most commonly located on the shins.

Initially, these spots might feel slightly scaly. However, they will flatten over time and cause minor indentations in the skin. Although shin spots cause no pain or itching, their presence without any clear explanation could indicate that your blood sugar is too high. Luckily, they typically fade once diabetes is managed effectively. Otherwise, they may persist for years.

2.     Acanthosis Nigricans

This condition manifests as dark and velvety patches that appear in body folds and creases (e.g., neck, armpits, groin). The affected skin may also thicken.

Acanthosis nigricans is commonly linked to insulin resistance, which is a precursor to type 2 diabetes. In fact, this might be the first sign of type 2 diabetes.

3.     Open Sores and Wounds

Poor wound healing is a major sign of diabetes. High blood sugar levels can cause impaired circulation and nerve damage, which in turn makes it difficult for the body to heal cuts and wounds.

This is especially detrimental to the feet, where sores can develop into serious infections without proper care. Diabetic ulcers require immediate medical attention to prevent further complications.

4.     Eruptive Xanthomatosis

Poorly controlled diabetes may cause a sudden outbreak of eruptive xanthomatosis, which appears as firm, yellow, pea-like enlargements in the skin.

These bumps are usually itchy and tender and appear mostly on the buttocks, thighs, crooks of the elbows, or knees. They generally improve with better management of diabetes.

5.     Xanthelasma

These bumps or patches are soft, yellowish, and appear around the eyelids. Xanthelasma is linked to high levels of fats in the blood and can indicate poorly controlled diabetes.

It’s important for individuals with this condition to consult their healthcare provider about their blood sugar levels and lipid panel.

6.     Recurrent Infections

Diabetes compromises the immune system and reduces the body’s ability to fight off infections. For diabetic individuals, common signs include:

  • Fungal infections (e.g., candidiasis).
  • Bacterial infections.
  • Susceptibility to viral infections.

Recurrent infections may be a sign that your blood glucose level is above normal ranges.

7.     Skin Tags (Acrochordons)

These small and soft skin growths appear on the neck, eyelids, armpits, groin, or under the breasts. Although skin tags are generally benign, the presence of numerous tags may be a sign of high insulin levels in the blood. This is seen in individuals with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

8.     Granuloma Annulare

This skin condition presents with raised and reddish bumps that typically appear in a ring pattern. Although the connection to diabetes is not definitive, several studies have noted a higher prevalence of granuloma annulare in people with diabetes.

The bumps may come and go and can spread over large areas.

9.     Hard and Thickening Skin

This is fairly uncommon. Regardless, the skin on the upper back and occasionally the shoulders or neck slowly thickens and feels tight. It’s not limited to these areas and can occur elsewhere on the body but never on the hands or feet.

The process can take months or even years. Although it is generally painless, the changes on the skin are very obvious.

10.  Necrobiosis Lipoidica

This is another uncommon manifestation of diabetes. This condition begins with small bumps that develop into larger patches of swollen and hard skin. These patches may appear yellowish, reddish, or brownish. They typically form on the shins and are more common in women. The center of each patch may appear thin and show the underlying blood vessels.

Takeaway message

Diabetes is a multi-system disease that can affect the skin in a variety of ways. Learning more about these manifestations can help you identify early signs of high blood glucose, which is critical for improved management. Early diagnosis of diabetes helps you take action to reduce the skin of complications, such as diabetic foot.

We hope that this article managed to highlight the warning signs of diabetes that show up on your skin and how to detect them.

If you have any further questions about how diabetes manifests on the skin, please feel free to reach out to us via this link for a private conversation.

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