Diabetic dermopathy looks like skin cancer?

If you have diabetes, tell your doctor about these spots. Some people who have diabetes and shin spots have a higher risk of developing complications from diabetes like neuropathy, which is nerve damage that can lead to weakness, numbness, and pain.

You might mistake it for a tan or brown stain and try to scrub it off. But it won’t work. This condition is common in people with diabetes. Your skin usually darkens and thickens, and it might feel velvety. It could itch and smell, too. The back of the neck, groin, folds of elbows, knees, knuckles, and armpits are common spots. Being overweight or obese ups your chances for acanthosis nigricans, so shedding pounds can help get rid of it.

Xanthelasma happens when your body collects extra cholesterol around your eyes. You might notice flat or slightly raised yellowish growths on or around the eyelids. The deposits aren’t harmful or painful, but they could signal uncontrolled diabetes, high cholesterol, or other health problems.

Diabetic Dermopathy

Cutaneous Manifestations of Diabetes

Diabetic Dermopathy

These spots grow slowly, becoming one or more patches that may be yellow, reddish, brown, or purplish. In the center, you may see waxy skin that is thinning, blood vessels, or both.

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Skin tags

American Academy of Dermatology Association: “Acanthosis Nigricans: Diagnosis And Treatment,” “Diabetes: 12 Warning Signs That Appear On Your Skin.”

Early on, these spots often feel scaly. As they flatten out, they can cause small dents in the skin.

British Association of Dermatologists: “Necrobiosis Lipoidica.”

Diabetes: 10 warning signs that can appear on your skin

What is Diabetes Dermopathy?

Last updated: 1/4/24

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Your doctor might call it digital sclerosis. It can happen with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The skin on the back of your hands or on your fingers or toes may be thick and waxy. Those patches may spread to your arms, upper back, and shoulders. In severe cases, you may have trouble moving your joints and need physical therapy. The best way to treat this condition is to control your blood sugar.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Diabetes and your feet.” Last updated 4/11/2023. Last accessed 11/28/2023.

Diabetes and Skin Conditions

Diabetic Dermopathy

When this condition begins, you usually see round or oval spots, which often develop on the shins. The spots may be brown or reddish brown in color.

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Reviewed by:
Brendan Camp, MD, FAAD
Amanda Friedrichs, MD, FAAD
William D. James, MD, FAAD
Omolara Olowoyeye, MD, FAAD

American Osteopathic College of Dermatology: “Xanthelasma.”

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