Diabetes-related dermopathy is a harmless skin condition that affects people living with diabetes. It looks like small, round brownish patches and usually appears on your shins. There’s no treatment for diabetes-related dermopathy, but makeup and moisturizer can help with its appearance.
Diabetes-related dermopathy looks like small, round pink, reddish or brown patches on your skin. They can look like scars and be indented. They’re generally 1 centimeter to 2.5 centimeters in size.
The patches are harmless and don’t itch, ooze liquid or cause pain. Diabetes-related dermopathy most often appears on the front of both of your lower legs (on your shins), but one leg may have more patches than the other. It can also appear on other parts of your body, such as your thighs and arms.
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Diabetes-related dermopathy affects people who have diabetes mellitus.
Diabetes-related dermopathy is more common in people who have diabetes and are over 50 years of age and those who have had diabetes for a long time. The condition is also more common in people assigned male at birth.
Diabetes-related dermopathy is fairly common in people who have diabetes. It’s the most common skin condition that affects people who have diabetes.
Diabetes-related dermopathy is usually asymptomatic, meaning it doesn’t cause symptoms like pain or itching.
Characteristics of the diabetes-related dermopathy spots that develop on your skin include spots that are:
The spots last for many months. Over time, the clusters of spots may look like age spots.
Researchers don’t yet know the exact cause of diabetes-related dermopathy. Many researchers and healthcare providers think that diabetes-related dermopathy may be related to prior trauma to your skin from an injury or extreme heat or cold, especially if you have neuropathy, which is a type of nerve damage that’s caused by chronic high blood sugar (hyperglycemia).
Diabetes-related dermopathy is strongly associated with the following complications of diabetes:
Diabetes-related dermopathy isn’t contagious. You can’t get it from someone else or spread it to someone else.
Your healthcare provider will ask you questions about your medical history and your skin spots. They’ll then examine the size, color, shape and location of your spots to determine if it could be diabetes-related dermopathy.
Your provider might perform a skin biopsy on one or more of the spots to rule out other possible skin conditions.
There’s no known treatment for diabetes-related dermopathy, but the good news is that the skin patches themselves are harmless.
Researchers aren’t sure if better diabetes management and having better blood sugars help improve the patches after someone already has them. However, if you have diabetes-related dermopathy, it’s important to continue to treat your diabetes and manage it well in order to stay healthy and prevent complications.
While there’s no formal treatment for diabetes-related dermopathy, there are some things you can do at home to help manage the appearance of the diabetes-related dermopathy, including:
It’s also important to manage your diabetes as well as you can to prevent complications.
The risk factors for developing diabetes-related dermopathy include:
Although not all cases of diabetes-related dermopathy are preventable, the main way to try to prevent diabetes-related dermopathy is to manage your diabetes well. Steps you can take to manage your diabetes well include:
Since many researchers think that diabetes-related dermopathy may be related to prior injuries to the affected area, wearing protective gear such as shin guards or thick, long socks when you’re doing physical activities could help protect your shins from getting injured.
Diabetes-related dermopathy itself is harmless. However, diabetes-related dermopathy can be a warning sign of diabetes complications such as neuropathy, nephropathy and retinopathy.
If you have signs of diabetes-related dermopathy, be sure to contact your healthcare provider. In some cases, diabetes-related dermopathy “helps” with early diagnosis and prevention of these diabetes complications.
On average, diabetes-related dermopathy patches tend to fade after one to two years, but they can remain on your skin for longer. Better blood sugar management doesn’t seem to have an effect on how diabetes-related dermopathy progresses once you already have it. After specific spots fade, new spots can appear.
If you have new round, brown patches on your skin and haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible. Diabetes-related dermopathy could be a sign that you have diabetes.
If you already have diabetes and are experiencing signs of diabetes-related dermopathy, be sure to see your healthcare provider. Diabetes-related dermopathy could be a sign of other diabetes complications, and your provider may want to run certain tests to check your overall health.
If you notice any kind of significant change to your skin, especially color changes, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider. They may want to examine your skin to make sure you don’t have a serious condition.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Even though diabetes-related dermatology may have an unpleasant appearance, the condition itself doesn’t harm your health. If you’re experiencing signs of diabetes-related dermopathy, it’s important to see your healthcare provider. Diabetes-related dermopathy can look similar to other skin conditions, so your provider will want to be sure of the diagnosis. No matter what, it’s essential to do your best to manage your diabetes well in order to be healthy and prevent complications. Don’t be afraid to ask your provider for help and friends and family for support.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/28/2022.
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