‘I’m a pharmacist – here are five skin signs seen in people with diabetes’

A pharmacist has outlined five warning signs of insulin resistance, which is seen in people with diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome, that appear on the skin.

Insulin resistance refers to a health problem where your body becomes resistant against too much insulin that keeps being released to tackle high blood sugar levels.

Worryingly, insulin resistance could lay the harmful groundwork for prediabetes and eventually diabetes.

Furthermore, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a common condition that affects how a woman’s ovaries work.

Nyrah Saleem, a London based clinical pharmacist and prescriber, explained in a TikTok video that insulin can influence the health of your skin.

1. Skin discolouration in underarms or neck

Nyrah shared that the first sign of insulin resistance can appear on your neck or underarms in the form of darkened skin folds.

Also known as acanthosis nigricans, this discolouration refers to a velvety, darkening of your skin that has poorly defined borders and may also include thickening of the skin.

2. Skin tags

Another red flag sign could be small, benign tumours that form on the skin.

The soft flesh-coloured growths stand out from the skin surface on a small stalk and can range from one to several millimetres in size.

3. Acne

While this sign is more common with PCOS, the pharmacist also recommended looking out for acne, typically around the jawline.

Because the underlying trigger for this type of acne is hormonal imbalance, PCOS acne tends to occur in areas that are more sensitive to the effects of hormones.

4. Excessive hair growth

Nyrah also shared that abnormal excessive hair growth, also known hirsutism, could ring alarm bells.

According to the NHS, hirsutism occurs when women have thick, dark hair on their face, neck, chest, tummy, lower back, buttocks or thighs.

5. Male pattern baldness

The last warning sign the pharmacist warned of is hair loss. Nyrah explained that high insulin levels will lead to higher testosterone, which can trigger hair loss.

Fortunately, the pharmacist also offered simple tips to lower insulin resistance “naturally”.

Nyrah recommended the following lifestyle tweaks:

  • Focus on your diet (more fibre and healthy fats such as avocado)
  • Try intermittent fasting (16 hours fasting and 8 hours eating)
  • Start strength and resistance exercises
  • Take supplements such as berberine, inositol, or magnesium glycinate.

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