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Subtle change to the skin could be an early indicator of 'silent killer' condition


Diabetes is a serious and typically lifelong condition which causes your blood sugar levels to become too high. Although it is not known exactly what causes type 1 diabetes, among type 2 patients this is often linked to factors such as being overweight and not exercising enough. However, it can also run in families.

As with any condition or illness the sooner you spot the symptoms of diabetes, the sooner you can seek medical help.

Some of these are more well-known and obvious than others. However, other warning signs can be “subtle”, an expert has warned.

According to Dr Maksims Mukans, bariatric surgeon at Weight Loss Riga, one often-overlooked indicator of potential pre-diabetes or diabetes is changes in the skin.

He said: “These can provide valuable clues about a person’s metabolic health.

“Many people may not realise that certain skin conditions can be linked to underlying issues such as insulin resistance, which is a hallmark of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.”

Dr Mukans pointed out that one common symptom linked with these conditions is the darkening of the skin in certain areas, particularly around the neck, armpits and groin.

This condition, known as acanthosis nigricans, often suggests insulin resistance and can occur before diabetes develops.

“Acanthosis nigricans is not just a cosmetic concern, it’s a potential red flag for underlying metabolic dysfunction,” Dr Mukans explained.

“Anyone noticing such changes in their skin should consider consulting a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

“Ignoring these signs could be playing into the hands of a silent killer.”

The NHS states that these darkened patches of skin can be a sign of diabetes as well as:

  • Obesity
  • Conditions that affect hormone levels – such as Cushing’s syndrome, polycystic ovary syndrome or an underactive thyroid
  • Taking certain medicines – including steroids or hormone treatments like the contraceptive pill
  • Rarely, cancer – usually stomach cancer
  • Rarely, a faulty gene inherited from your parents.

Aside from skin changes, Dr Mukans listed several other warning signs that may indicate pre-diabetes or diabetes.

Frequent urination

Increased thirst and frequent trips to the bathroom can signal diabetes, as the kidneys work overtime to filter excess glucose from the blood.

Unexplained weight loss or gain

Sudden weight changes, despite no significant changes in diet or exercise, could indicate underlying metabolic issues linked to diabetes.

Fatigue and weakness

Persistent fatigue, even after sufficient rest, may be a result of fluctuating blood sugar levels affecting the body’s energy levels.

Blurred vision

Diabetes can cause changes in the shape of the eye’s lens, leading to sudden blurred vision that may improve with better blood sugar control.

Slow wound healing

Diabetes can impair the body’s ability to heal wounds and injuries. Slow healing of cuts, bruises, or infections, particularly on the feet, can be a warning sign of compromised blood flow and nerve damage associated with the condition.

Dr Mukans stressed the importance of early detection and intervention in managing pre-diabetes and diabetes.

He added: “Recognising these warning signs and seeking prompt medical attention can significantly improve outcomes and reduce the risk of complications associated with diabetes.

“Prevention and early intervention are key in the fight against diabetes.

“By paying attention to these warning signs and adopting healthy habits, people can take control of their metabolic health and reduce their risk of developing diabetes.”

If you experience any symptoms of diabetes you should speak to your GP.

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