A subtle change to the skin could be an early indicator of diabetes, a surgeon has warned. As cases of pre-diabetes and diabetes continue to rise globally, experts are placing more emphasis on recognising warning signs to prevent further escalation of these conditions.

According to Dr Maksims Mukans, a 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 points 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 said. "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."

Diabetes warning signs

Beyond skin changes, Dr Mukans points out 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 said: "Recognising these warning signs and seeking prompt medical attention can significantly improve outcomes and reduce the risk of complications associated with diabetes.”

He promotes healthy lifestyle habits like regular exercise and eating a balanced diet. Regular screenings for people at risk of pre-diabetes or diabetes - such as those with a family history, overweight or obese individuals, and those leading sedentary lives - are also on his list.

"Prevention and early intervention are key in the fight against diabetes," Dr Mukans said. "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."