Diabetic Dermopathy

Diabetic Dermopathy

Last updated on June 19th, 2016

Diabetic dermopathy is a condition associated with the skin of diabetics.  The lesions of diabetic dermopathy look light brown or red in color, are round or oval in shape, and are slightly indented and scaly patches that are more commonly found on the shins of diabetic patients.  They can occur at any time but tend to be seen more often whenever there has been some kind of trauma or injury to the area.

Diabetic dermopathy is not a rare condition.  According to statistics, one can find diabetic dermopathy in up to a third of all diabetic patients.  It is a skin condition that is often referred to as pigmented pretibial patches or shin spots, due to their usual location.

Causes of Diabetic Dermopathy

No one knows the exact cause of diabetic dermopathy.  Scientists feel that is related to the damage to the nerves and blood vessels often seen in diabetic patients.  There has been found to be a relationship between diabetic dermopathy and diabetic retinopathy (eye damage from diabetes), diabetic nephropathy (kidney damage from diabetes), and diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage from diabetes).

This is a skin condition that seems to be more prevalent among older patients with diabetes and in people who have had their condition for a minimum of ten to twenty years.  It also seems to be related to the hemoglobin A1c level.  The higher the hemoglobin A1c level, the greater is the chance of also having diabetic dermopathy.  This means that diabetics who are in the worst control of their diabetes have the greatest chance of having diabetic dermopathy.

Interestingly, the lesions or patches of diabetic dermopathy are often located over the bony aspects of the shins.  This is why it is believed that diabetic dermopathy is related to some kind of trauma to these parts of the body.  Research as shown that diabetic dermopathy shows up after there has been some kind of trauma to the affected area secondary to cold, heat, or being hit with a blunt object in a diabetic patient.

Typical Signs and Symptoms of Diabetic Dermopathy

As mentioned, this is a diabetic skin condition that most likely occurs on the shins of diabetics.  The lesions can also be found on the frontal aspect of the thighs, the scalp, the sides of the feet, the forearm, and the trunk.

diabetic skin condition

Common features of the patches include the following:

  • They have a red or brown coloration. Some can be pink or red in color.
  • They are oval or round in shape.
  • They start out scaly but then become flatter and more indented over time. This is called atrophy.
  • They are usually bilateral, occurring on both shins at the same time.
  • The patches have no other symptoms, such as pain or itching.
  • They rarely open up to become open sores and often simply look like age spots.

Treatment of Diabetic Dermopathy

It is important to remember that these are lesions that are, for the most part harmless, and are just a sigh of poorly controlled diabetes.  They often disappear spontaneously over a several year period of time.

The best way to treat diabetic dermopathy is to have the blood sugars under the best possible control.  When the blood sugar is controlled, the lesions seem to go away faster.  Eating a healthy diet, exercising, and taking the prescribed medications for diabetes go a long way toward controlling the patches of diabetic dermopathy.

Another thing you can do is to keep the skin as moisturized as possible, especially in those areas where the lesions are located.  Try not to get injured in the area of the shins.  If you think you have lesions consistent with diabetic dermopathy, see your doctor in order to confirm the diagnosis and get some care if one or more of the lesions open up and become ulcerated.

References:

  1. Skin conditions of diabetes mellitus. http://www.dermnetnz.org/systemic/diabetes.html. Accessed 5/16/16.
  2. Diabetic Dermopathy. http://healthool.com/diabetic-dermopathy/. Accessed 5/16/16.
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