Type 2 diabetes: The minor growths on skin that could signal insulin resistance

Type 2 diabetes can be a 'devastating diagnosis' says expert

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Type 2 diabetes is widely considered a lifelong condition linked to a higher risk of developing vascular complications. The condition typically develops around middle-age, when the body stops responding to insulin, which controls the levels of glucose in the blood. If detected in its early stages, however, it could still be reversed. Doctor Efthimia Karra, Consultant Endocrinologist at the Prince Grace Hospital, explained that minor growths on the skin may foreshadow the condition.

Diagnoses of diabetes have doubled over the past 15 years, the charity Diabetes UK revealed earlier this year.

During the pandemic, a further spike in caseload led to an outbreak of concerns over associated complications.

While the condition is often brushed off as benign, it has been shown to increase the risk of many vascular complications, such as heart attack.

A growing line of evidence suggests that the condition can be controlled and in some cases even reversed.

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Early characterisation of the condition therefore is paramount to avoid type 2 diabetes, and all consequent health conditions.

According to Dr Karra, minor growths on the surface of the skin, known as skin tags, may foreshadow insulin resistance.

Studies have suggested that skin tags develop as a result of hyperinsulinemia, which is where insulin levels in the blood are abnormally high.

Dr Karra explained: “Skin tags are soft, benign, flesh and pedunculate protrusions. they are usually small, usually affect the neck and ear, but can also grown in the anal area and groin.


“It’s not well understood why skin tags develop, but they are increasingly common with age.

“Sixty percent of affected individuals age 69 years or older have multiple skin tags.

“They have been linked with insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia.

“Other conditions associated with skin tags entail acromegaly, a condition associated with growth hormone excess, Crohn’s disease, diabetes mellitus, elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol.”

The first stage in the development of type 2 diabetes is prediabetes, which is when the blood sugar levels are above normal range, but not yet high enough to qualify as type 2 diabetes.

It is believed, however, that the long-term damage of diabetes to other vital organs, including the heart, may already be starting at the step.

The risk factors that increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes also increase the risk for prediabetes, this includes high blood pressure, family history o diabetes, and lack of physical fitness.

Doctor Karra noted: “Skin tags develop when the body produces extra cells in the skin’s top layers. Skin tags tend to affect patients with insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, as insulin is a growth-stimulating hormone.

“They may develop when clusters of collagen and blood vessels become trapped inside thicker pieces of skin.

“As they are more common in areas where the skin is creased or in skin folds, this may indicate that they may be mainly caused by skin rubbing against skin.

“Both skin tags and aconthosis nigricans either in isolation or in coexistence they are thought to signify insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia.”

Lifestyle factors, notably adopting a healthy diet, could help prevent the onset of diabetes, and allow better management of type 2 diabetes.

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