Skip to content

Discolored shins could mean diabetes

Seeing red

Q: I recently developed red spots on my shins. My doctor ruled out anything serious, but I still want to know what they are — after all, that’s not normal, right? Have you seen anything like this in your practice?

Dr. Wright: Actually, I have. In fact, I learned about shin spots early in medical school. Discolored spots on the shins are often an early sign of impending Type II (adult onset) diabetes. The spots are usually red or brownish-red and are generally slow spreading. They are also called diabetic dermopathy, and while not exclusive to diabetes, they can be an accurate indicator of the disease itself or a predisposition to it.

I often suspect this condition when these spots are present in my patients, and when they have any of the other major risk factors for diabetes including: family history of the disease, skin tags, obesity or excess weight, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), or the combination of high blood pressure with high triglycerides and cholesterol.

If you have even one of these risk factors, you’ll want to have a Glucose Insulin Tolerance Test (GITT) performed. There’s no faster way to find out your status related to diabetes. To find a doctor who can help you with the GITT test, contact the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) by visiting

For more information about preventing diabetes, please refer to the August 2001 issue of Nutrition & Healing, available to subscribers by visiting and logging on to the Archives with the username and password listed on page 8 of your most recent newsletter.