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Diabetic Dermopathy: What To Do When Shin Spots Appear

Medically reviewed by Mia Dacumos, MD · Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Aug 19, 2022

Diabetic Dermopathy: What To Do When Shin Spots Appear

Diabetic dermopathy, also called “pigmented pretibial patches” or “shin spots,” is a skin condition that appears in the front part of either or both lower legs. It is usually colored red, brown, or pink and comes in a circular or oval shape. The condition is not painful, but sometimes it causes itching or a burning sensation in some areas.

Who Is at Risk of Diabetic Dermopathy?

Diabetic dermopathy is a skin condition that is related to diabetes and it can appear in patients of any age, gender, and race. It is common in the elderly or those who have had diabetes for a very long time. In some cases, diabetic dermopathy is one of the early signs of diabetes.

Studies have shown this skin condition can appear in adults in just a short time after being diagnosed with diabetes. For children or young adults less than 20 years old, it took around ten years to appear. 

Diabetics commonly develop diabetic dermopathy because high blood sugar levels cause a loss of fluids in their body. This loss of fluid affects the skin, causing it to become rough and dry. The skin can crack and open wounds may appear. And for this reason, those who suffer from diabetic dermopathy are prone to other skin infections.

Trauma to the shin area is another cause of diabetic dermopathy. Injury can damage the blood vessels and nerves that cause the development of these spots.

Signs and Symptoms

The most evident signs of diabetic dermopathy are the round or oval, discolored patches. Other signs and symptoms include the following:

  • The patches slightly lighten over time.
  • The spots tend to cover a large area in several patches. More than four patches often appear in diabetes patients.
  • Aside from the shins, diabetic dermopathy may appear on the thighs, limbs, and feet.

Meanwhile, these are the rare symptoms:

  • The patches or spots become itchy or may begin to sting.
  • Patches or spots may open and start hurting.
  • The spots may appear on the forearm.


In general, diabetic dermopathy is caused by changes or damage to the nerves and blood vessels in the shin area. When the blood vessels are damaged, the blood supply changes, causing the spots to appear. However, the main reason why these appear, particularly in the shins, is unknown. 

Since the condition is commonly related to diabetes, experts believe that it also has a connection with other diabetic conditions, such as diabetic nephropathy, diabetic neuropathy, and diabetic retinopathy. 

In some studies, researchers observed the appearance of shin spots because of trauma that involves exposure to heat, cold, or physical injury. Some patches may bleed under the skin as the damaged cells discrete iron and hemoglobin. It appears to have a discoloration when the body cannot heal the damage in blood vessels.


There is no specific treatment for diabetic dermopathy. In some cases, it heals and improves over time. However, if the body fails to heal the damage, the discolored spots may become permanent. As such, if you have diabetes, you may want to avoid accidents that can hurt your shins to prevent damage to the blood vessels.

diabetic dermopathy

For those with diabetes, managing blood sugar levels is one way to prevent diabetic dermopathy. High blood sugar levels damage blood vessels over time, causing a number of health complications, including skin problems. In such cases, moisturizing the skin can be helpful to avoid cracks and dryness. Diabetic patients need to constantly monitor their blood sugar levels to properly manage their condition and remain healthy.

If you are looking for home remedies or prevention tips, a healthy diet and exercise can prove to be helpful in the prevention of these spots or patches. 

As always, take your medications faithfully to ensure your diabetes is properly managed. Controlling blood sugar levels and avoiding accidents has health benefits beyond the prevention of diabetic dermopathy. The same preventive measures can also prevent other diabetes complications.

Key Takeaway

Diabetic dermopathy appears in patches or spots with discoloration. In some cases, these spots may heal given time, but with other patients, they may not. Treatment for this skin condition is all about taking care of yourself, from controlling blood sugar levels to avoiding injury. If you observe diabetic dermopathy symptoms on your skin, consult a doctor to prevent further risks and complications.

Learn more about Diabetes Complications here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mia Dacumos, MD

Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Aug 19, 2022

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