Early Diabetes Warning Signs on the Skin

Early Diabetes Warning Signs on the Skin

5 Foot Care Tips for Active Diabetics

The skin acts as your body’s protective layer. Yet, it can also be a warning beacon of processes happening (or not happening) within the body. Some people develop diabetes in what feels like an overnight change, while others show signs of pre-diabetes for years. The earlier you identify and manage this condition, the better your long-term health and quality of life. Your skin could be giving you early warning signs that diabetes is on the horizon.  

Skin Conditions and Early Indicators of Diabetes

The following are some of the more common skin-related issues and conditions that result from uncontrolled diabetes. Some happen even if you maintain careful control over your diabetes. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, talk to your doctor about the potential for diabetes. 


Open sore on foot

Open Sores and Wounds

Scratches, cuts, and other wounds that just won’t heal can be an early sign of diabetes. High blood sugar affects circulation and can cause nerve damage. Consequently, undiagnosed, uncontrolled, or poorly controlled diabetes over an extended period of time can affect the body’s ability to heal, especially on the feet. 

You may experience other early symptoms like increased thirst, frequent urination, increased hunger, or frequent infections. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of diabetes. Pre-diabetic and diabetes management include regular checks of the skin’s condition on your feet, where circulation tends to be the poorest. 

Skin infections

Wounds and sores that heal slowly are more prone to infection. Diabetes also affects white blood cells, further complicating the body’s ability to fight off infection. Both bacterial and fungal infections take hold more easily among those with diabetes. Candida albicans, a fungal infection that causes a red, itchy rash with scales and blisters, is a common problem. It forms in areas where the skin tends to stay moist.


Dry Skin

Dry, itchy, or flaky skin

Dry, itchy, or flaky skin is an early indicator of diabetes. Of course, this condition is common to many people for a variety of reasons. However, if it coincides with other potential warning signs, talk to your doctor. 

Reddish, yellow bumps

You might mistake eruptive xanthomatosis’ red-yellow bumps for pimples, but they develop in places you don’t usually expect acne. They often appear in the bends of the elbows, back of the knees, thighs, and buttocks. They’re red when they first appear but turn yellow as they continue to develop. Eruptive xanthomatosis’ itchy, tender bumps appear quickly and without warning when diabetes goes uncontrolled. 

Dark, velvety patches of skin 

Acanthosis nigricans is characterized by a band or dark patch of skin in the groin, armpit, or neck, with the skin taking on a velvety feel. It’s common among pre-diabetics due to too much insulin in the blood. 


Waxy skin on foot

Thick, hardened, waxy skin

Digital sclerosis looks like thick, tight, almost waxy skin on the fingers, backs of the hands, or toes. The skin can also lead to stiffness in the joints and limited mobility. Digital sclerosis usually only occurs if you’ve had uncontrolled diabetes for an extended period of time. This condition tends to be more common for those who know they have the disease but have a difficult time managing it. 

Shin Spots

Diabetic dermopathy or shin spots often get mistaken for age or skin spots. These dark spots include a slight skin depression, and they are more common on the shins. But, they can form on the upper body and thighs, too. Shin spots don’t usually cause discomfort and disappear on their own. However, sometimes they’re permanent. 

Hardened, shiny skin patches

Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum is a mouthful, but it’s characterized by small, raised bumps that develop into patches of hard skin that can be shiny in appearance. This condition usually causes itchiness and pain and tends to come and go. 

Red or skin-colored bumps

Granuloma annulare comes with red or skin-colored bumps that form a ring pattern. The bumps, which usually appear on the hands and feet, typically disappear on their own within a year or two. If the bumps appear in large patches on large areas of the body, they could be related to diabetes. However, this condition is common among those who don’t have diabetes as well. 


Blister on Foot


Bullosis diabetricorum, otherwise known as blisters, appears suddenly as a large or group of blisters. However, unlike a burn, they aren’t painful, but they could be a source of infection if they burst. These blisters aren’t a common diabetic symptom, but if you notice sudden blisters with no cause, talk to your doctor. 

Include Skin Care in Your Daily Routine

Any of these conditions could indicate changes in your body that need attention. If you suspect diabetes, are pre-diabetic, or have a family history of diabetes, a consistent skincare routine can alert you to early warning signs. Daily skin care also maintains the skin’s integrity, so it can act as your body’s first defense against infection. 

Start by using a gentle cleanser to remove bacteria or anything else that could lead to an infection. Dry your skin well, but keep it well-moisturized to prevent it from becoming dry, itchy, or cracked. Regularly check the skin on your feet, where poor circulation can make you more prone to skin problems. 

Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about diabetes or any new or ongoing skin conditions.

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