Does your skin appear waxy, swollen, or just thickened? It could very well be a sign of diabetes. Diabetes is a disease that affects your whole body and kills you slowly. It can show up in several ways. From damaging your nerve endings to causing end-stage kidney disease, it is one of the principal killers of this century. Even the best doctors may miss the first signs of diabetes.
Diabetes is the leading cause of death, especially in developed countries. While many countries struggle to feed their people, they have too much food, especially fast food and foods that aren’t good for you, which leads to this problem. Even though your diet doesn’t directly cause you to get diabetes, it is one of the things that affects your lifestyle. So, if you believe your lifestyle may lead to diabetes in the future, or if diabetes runs in your family, start monitoring your health in your mid-20s.
So here is a list of 12 warning signs on your skin that indicate you may have diabetes. Even though the list is neither complete nor final, you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
Patchy Discoloration of Your Skin
Necrobiosis lipoidica is exactly as scary as it sounds! The onset of this condition is as inconspicuous as it is innocuous. The disease starts gradually and silently. It begins as tiny, hard bumps on your skin. But with time, it becomes hardened, discolored patches all over the body.
However, your problems don’t end here. These affected patches of your skin are both painful and itchy. The unaffected areas around these patches become like porcelain. The maximum number of such reported cases are seen in young females suffering from uncontrolled and undiagnosed diabetes
This condition can also indicate other comorbidities associated with diabetes, such as obesity, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, and thyroid disorders.
Next on our list is Acanthosis nigricans. Even though it isn’t usually thought of as a sign of diabetes by itself, it is a pretty strong sign of the disease. The dark, velvety patches may appear on almost any part of your body. Usually, it is seen in the groin, armpits, or the back of your neck, where you have more skin folds.
The condition indicates an overabundance of the insulin hormone in your blood. However, if you have already been diagnosed with diabetes (usually type 2) and are experiencing this condition, there may be other substantial red flags!
Skin blisters are one of the rarer signs of diabetes mellitus. The top layer of your skin is formed by a hard yet flexible protein known as keratin. In cases of insulin-resistant diabetes, there is more of the hormone coursing through your veins.
The hormone affects those cells of your body that produce keratin. While in some cases it deposits more of the substance making the skin patchily discolored, it may just as easily cause them to stop production altogether!
When this happens, the top layer of that part of your skin undergoes regular wear and tear but is not replenished. Thus, your skin blisters in those areas may appear as raised bumps.
Recurrent Infections of Your Skin
Diabetes significantly reduces your body’s ability to fight infection. Most of these infections happen in places where the skin tends to keep more moisture on the surface or has a lot of folds that make it easy for the microbes to get a foothold and spread.
Infections, bear in mind, can either be bacterial or fungal. If you don’t have a strong immune system, even the harmless microbes on your skin could cause you to get sick again and again. The infections manifest as painful and itchy blisters, sometimes leaking pus. It may affect your scalp, the folds between your fingers or toes, or even your nail beds.
Delay in Wound Healing
This is one of the conditions associated with diabetes that has become too well known for its own good! However, the propagation of this knowledge across platforms has significantly increased awareness regarding getting tested for the disease.
The delay in your wound healing could be the least of your problems if you keep it unchecked. Moreover, such a wound is an ideal gateway for the entry of foreign microbes. If the wound is deep enough, it may lead to that part of your body’ dying’.
So, if a wound on your skin is taking longer to heal than you would like, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Dark Spots on Your Shin
Diabetic dermopathy is the medical term given to the dark spots that appear on the skin. The condition usually manifests as dark spots or patchy discoloration of your shins. In rarer cases, the condition may also be found in other areas of the body, including the armpits, the folds of your neck, or your thighs.
Research shows that the condition may not just be caused by the wrong amount of keratin or melanin being made. It may be part of a syndrome that affects your eyes (diabetic retinopathy) or your nervous system (diabetic neuropathy). In extreme cases, it may also be a sign of kidney failure.
Eruptions Across Your Skin
Do not ignore these small eruptions that may look like pimples. The real danger comes to pass when they turn yellowish later! They can appear almost anywhere on your body. The common sites include the folds between your toes and fingers, the elbows, groin, knees, or buttocks.
Moreover, the bumps appear when your sugar levels are under control. The bumps are itchy and often painful to the touch. They are also indicators of other comorbid conditions associated with increased triglyceride or cholesterol levels.
If you are an alcoholic, have a sedentary lifestyle, or have a genetic predisposition to diabetes, it may be an early sign of cardiovascular complications.
The medical term for this condition is eruptive xanthomatosis.
Redness of the Skin
Granuloma annulare is a rare presentation, usually of type-2 diabetes mellitus. It is marked by rough patches or bumps on the skin that look like rings. In some cases, there may also be dark patches within these bumps.
Based on several studies, the association of the condition with diabetes may be an indicator of something more sinister. In addition to autoimmunity and high levels of lipids in the blood, it could mean that you are more likely to get blood cancers.
Thus, if you do discover these bumps anywhere on your body, do not delay a physician consultation!
Dry, Itchy Skin
Did you know that diabetes can also cause your skin to become dry and flaky? The reasons behind this are manifold. The increase in sugar levels causes your skin to improperly produce keratin and melanin.
The poor blood circulation seen in diabetic patients is also a principal contributing factor to this condition. The dryness in your skin may cause it to become extremely itchy. But be careful to not scratch too vigorously, or you might just cause a skin injury!
Flaky and itchy skin may be an early indicator of diabetic neuropathy. If it persists for an extended period, it might lead to nerve damage, loss of sensation, or abnormal sensations in the affected areas (paresthesia).
Patches Around the Eyelids
Xanthelasma palpebarum is a condition often associated with increased levels of LDL cholesterol in your blood. Apart from hyperlipidemia and thyroid dysfunction, it is also a sign of uncontrolled diabetes with elevated blood sugar levels.
It’s likely that you already have this condition if you drink too much, have a family history of obesity, or live an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle.
Yellow spots on your eyelids are a huge red flag and could mean you’re about to get a heart or kidney problem. It is an indicator of atherosclerosis, a condition where your blood vessels are gradually occluded, which may even lead to a heart attack!
Do not put off consulting your doctor once you notice these patches appearing.
Tag-like Skin Outgrowths
The presence of skin tags may be seen in diabetic patients. They chiefly occur in the neck, armpit, or groin area. However, in theory, they may appear in almost any and all parts of your body.
The tags initially resemble small outgrowths of the skin and are generally ignored by patients, as they do not cause pain or discomfort. However, research suggests that the presence of skin tags could be a valuable marker in the early diagnosis of type 2 diabetes mellitus.
The medical term for these skin tags is acrochordons. They are actually considered benign tumors—another of the red flags that you should be wary of. In rare cases, these skin tags may turn dark due to the excessive deposition of melanin.
Several experts in medical imaging say that among groups of harmless skin tags, there may be some silent, cancerous ones hiding in plain sight. Among the more common of these manifestations are malignant tumors of the connective tissue or melanomas.
Numbness in the Palm and Sole
Last but not least, is diabetic neuropathy. Neuropathy stemming from diabetes may cause you to feel tingling, pain, or numbness. The most commonly affected areas are the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands.
Diabetes neuropathy can also make muscles weak all over in the areas where the nerves are damaged. Slowly but surely, the dysfunction of these nerves will invariably lead to an impairment in blood supply.
If you feel numbness, tingling, pain, or any other kind of discomfort, especially in the edges of your body, and there doesn’t seem to be a reason for it, you may have some kind of neuropathy. It’s important to get your blood sugar checked to rule out diabetes.
Of the 7.2 billion people alive today, diabetes affects over 500 million. According to the statistics published by WHO, the number has essentially quadrupled within the last four decades (1980-2020). However, diabetes is not simply a lifestyle disease anymore. Several studies across different medical specialties have shown people to have a genetic predisposition to develop the disease.
Furthermore, the advancement of medical technology since the latter part of the previous century has also led to a decline in communicable diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites. The digitization of almost every aspect of life has also made people less active and more likely to choose a sedentary way of life.
All of these things have helped diabetes become one of the leading causes of death around the world. Undiagnosed and untreated diabetes is a cause for concern, especially in countries where the healthcare systems are expensive or inaccessible to a majority of the population.
Diabetes is not only the result of neglect, lifestyle, or genetics. There are a host of socio-political-economic factors that have influenced its growing paws of morbidity across the globe. Early diagnosis may lead to prompt treatment, and thus, we hope our list of 12 warning signs might help you get just that!
Conclusively, we add that this article simply compiles a list of red flags that you might want to look out for if you suspect that you may have or are susceptible to diabetes. Consult your physician and avoid self-diagnosis.
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