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Diabetic dermopathy is a fairly common skin problem for people living with diabetes.

The condition doesn’t occur in everyone with diabetes. However, it’s estimated that up to 50 percent of people living with the disease will develop some form of dermatosis, such as diabetic dermopathy.

The condition causes small lesions on your skin. They can be reddish or brownish in color and are usually round or oval in shape.

Lesions can occur anywhere on your body, but they tend to develop on bony parts. It’s common for them to develop on your shins.

Diabetic dermopathy is sometimes referred to as shin spots or pigmented pretibial patches.

The following picture gallery contains common examples of diabetic dermopathy:

Even though diabetic dermopathy is common when you’re living with diabetes, the exact cause of this condition is unknown. However, there’s a theory about the underlying mechanism behind these spots.

Shin spots have been linked to leg injuries, leaving some doctors to conclude that the lesions might be an exaggerated response to trauma in people who have diabetes that’s not well-managed.

Uncontrolled diabetes often leads to poor circulation, or inadequate blood flow, to different parts of the body. Over time, poor circulation can reduce the body’s wound-healing abilities.

Decreased blood flow to the area surrounding an injury prevents a wound from healing properly, resulting in the development of bruise-like lesions or spots.

It appears that nerve and blood vessel damage that can result from diabetes can also predispose you to diabetic dermopathy.

This condition has been associated with diabetic retinopathy (eye damage), diabetic nephropathy (kidney damage), and diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage).

It also seems to be more common in males, older adults, and those who have been living with diabetes for a longer period of time.

It’s important to remember that this is only a theory regarding what causes diabetic dermopathy. There’s no available research to confirm this information.

The appearance of diabetic dermopathy can vary from person to person.

The skin condition is characterized by reddish-brown, round or oval, scar-like patches that are usually a centimeter or less in size. It’s typically asymptomatic, meaning it usually doesn’t present any symptoms.

Though lesions primarily form on the shins, they can be found on other parts of the body, too. However, they’re less likely to develop on those areas. Other areas lesions can be found include:

  • thigh
  • trunk
  • arms

Even though lesions can be unpleasant to look at — depending on the severity and the number of spots — the condition is harmless.

Diabetic dermopathy doesn’t usually cause symptoms like burning, stinging, or itching.

You may develop one lesion or clusters of lesions on the shin and other parts of your body.

When spots develop on the body, they often form bilaterally, meaning they occur on both legs or both arms.

Other than the appearance of skin lesions, diabetic dermopathy doesn’t have any other symptoms. These lesions or patches don’t break open or release fluids. They’re also not contagious.

If you have diabetes, your doctor might be able to diagnose diabetic dermopathy after a visual examination of your skin. Your doctor will evaluate the lesions to determine:

  • shape
  • color
  • size
  • location

If your doctor determines you have diabetic dermopathy, they may forgo a biopsy. A biopsy may present concerns of slow wound-healing. However, you may need a skin biopsy, if your doctor suspects another skin condition.

Diabetic dermopathy can be an early symptom of diabetes. You may experience other early signs of having diabetes. These include:

  • frequent urination
  • frequent thirst
  • fatigue
  • blurry vision
  • weight loss
  • tingling sensation in your limbs

If you haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes and your doctor concludes your skin lesions may be caused by diabetic dermopathy, they may order further tests. The test results can help them confirm your diagnosis.

There’s no specific treatment for diabetic dermopathy.

Some lesions may take months to resolve, while others may take more than a year. There are other instances where lesions may be permanent.

You can’t control the rate that lesions fade, but there are steps you can take to manage the condition. Here are a few management tips:

  • Applying makeup may help cover the spots.
  • If your diabetic dermopathy produces dry, scaly patches, applying moisturizer may help.
  • Moisturizing may also help improve the appearance of spots.

While there’s no specific treatment for diabetic dermopathy, managing your diabetes is still important to prevent diabetes-related complications.

Currently, there’s no known way to prevent diabetic dermopathy resulting from diabetes.

However, if your diabetic dermopathy is caused by trauma or injury, there are preventive measures you can take. These measures can protect your shins and legs, two areas where lesions most likely occur.

For example, wearing knee-length socks or shin pads may offer protection when playing sports or engaging in other physical activity.

Diabetic dermopathy is a common condition in people living with diabetes. The condition is characterized by the presence of lesions. These lesions are harmless and don’t cause any pain, but they shouldn’t be ignored.

It’s vital that you keep your diabetes well-managed, which involves regularly monitoring your blood sugar. Managing your condition is important in preventing diabetes-related complications such as:

  • nerve damage
  • increased risk of stroke or heart attack

It’s important to schedule regular visits with your doctor to discuss your diabetes treatment plan and make any necessary adjustments to maintain good glycemic management.

For example, if you take your medication as prescribed, but your blood sugar remains high, talk to your doctor. You may need to adjust your current therapy.

Make a concerted effort to exercise at least 30 minutes, three to five times a week. Regular exercise is important to your overall health. This can include:

  • walking
  • jogging
  • doing aerobics
  • biking
  • swimming

Eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meats. It’s important to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. If you’re overweight, losing excess pounds can help stabilize your blood sugar level.

Be mindful that diabetes management doesn’t only involve maintaining a healthy blood sugar. There are other steps you can take, including:

If your diabetic dermopathy is the result of trauma or injury, you can take preventive steps such as wearing protecting clothing and gear during physical activities.

It’s important to protect your shins and legs since diabetic dermopathy tends to primarily affect those areas.

Scheduling regular visits with your doctor will enable them to complete a thorough examination to help determine the best management plan for your condition.