If you are experiencing yellow feet, there is a small chance that it may be caused by diabetes.
Diabetes is a common condition that affects the way your body processes sugar and when left untreated, it can cause serious health problems.
There are several complications caused by diabetes that can cause you to have yellow feet which we will detail below.
In this article, we will explore the link between diabetes and yellow feet, as well as go into detail about other causes that give your skin a yellow tint too.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes, also called diabetes mellitus, is a chronic condition that affects the way your body metabolizes blood sugar which is also called glucose.
There are two common forms of diabetes: type 1 and type 2, although there are several other lesser-known forms of it too.
Type 1 diabetes is characterized by your body’s inability to produce insulin because your pancreas stops producing it.
Type 2 diabetes, which is the most common form of diabetes, is when your body does not produce enough insulin or your cells do not respond properly to it due to insulin resistance.
The hormone insulin is important because your body utilizes it to metabolize the glucose in your bloodstream for energy.
If your cells are insulin resistant and stop responding to insulin, the glucose builds in your blood giving you high blood sugar levels.
No matter what kind of diabetes you have, uncontrolled blood sugar levels can lead to a number of serious health complications such as heart disease, nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy, poor blood flow, high blood pressure, and eye damage.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
Diabetes manifests itself with a number of symptoms that you may experience if you have it.
The most common symptoms of diabetes include:
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing wounds
- Unexplained weight loss even if you are eating more
- Frequent infections
Yellow feet are also a symptom of diabetes but are very rare and are usually caused by other health conditions.
If you have any of these symptoms, it is important to talk to your doctor so they can perform a blood test for a possible diabetes diagnosis.
How can diabetes cause yellow feet?
There are three ways that diabetes may cause yellow feet or hands.
Carotenemia is when you have elevated beta-carotene levels which can cause carotenoderma which is an orange-yellow discolored skin.
It is usually caused by the excessive consumption of carotene-rich foods that are yellow and orange pigments found in the foods you eat.
Foods such as carrots, pumpkins, peppers, sweet potatoes, and squash, all contain high amounts of carotenoids.
The carotenoids give you some skin color in a normal diet; however, when you have large doses of foods that contain them your skin can take on an unnatural yellow or orange hue which can appear on the palms of your hands or soles of your feet.
Carotenemia is not harmful and your yellow skin will go away once you stop consuming foods with excessive amounts of carotene.
According to a 2013 study, it is uncertain why carotenemia appears if you have diabetes but it is extremely rare and can be diagnosed with a blood test that measures your blood carotenoid level.
Diabetes is not the only medical condition that can cause carotenemia as it can also be caused by hypothyroidism, liver disease, anorexia, kidney disease, and high cholesterol.
Advanced glycation end products (AGEs)
Advanced glycation end products are a type of molecule that is created when proteins or fats combine with sugar and they can also damage cells and cause yellowing of the skin.
These proteins and lipids can be consumed from the food you eat that is highly processed, charred, or grilled, and also arise when you have hyperglycemia which is high blood glucose levels that can be caused by diabetes.
They can also be found in tobacco smoke and some medications.
According to the same 2013 study mentioned above, advanced glycation end products have been linked to yellowing of the skin in diabetes but more research needs to be done to confirm this connection.
Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum
Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum is a very rare skin condition that can cause yellowing of the skin.
It occurs when your collagen, which is a protein found in your skin, breaks down and forms a yellowish plaque on your skin.
It usually appears on the legs but can also be found on the arms, trunk, face, and rarely the feet.
Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum can lead to other foot complications such as foot ulcers and a skin infection so it is important to see your doctor if you think you have this condition.
What are other reasons for having yellow feet?
Complications from diabetes are not the only reason you may have yellow feet as there could be an underlying condition that can cause them whether you have diabetes or not.
Other reasons for yellow feet include:
Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin that can also cause yellowing of the whites of your eyes and dark urine.
It occurs when there is an excess of bilirubin in your body which is produced when your red blood cells break down.
Jaundice can be caused by many different things such as liver disease, gallstones, pancreatitis, and cancer.
Raynaud’s disease is a narrowing of blood vessels in response to cold or stress which can cause yellowing of the skin.
It usually affects the hands and feet and can also cause tingling, pain, and loss of feeling in your extremities.
Calluses and corns
Calluses and corns are areas of thickened, dry skin that develop and are often a response to friction or pressure from shoes.
They are a common skin condition that can cause your skin to turn yellow and usually do not require treatment unless they are causing pain and are often treated by rubbing them with a pumice stone.
Anemia is a condition where you do not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body which is often caused by an iron deficiency.
It can cause yellowing of the skin as well as fatigue, shortness of breath, and dizziness.
Consuming large amounts of turmeric
Turmeric is a yellow spice that is often used in Indian cuisine and is also used in alternative medicine as a herbal supplement due to it being an antioxidant and supposedly having anti-inflammatory properties.
While turmeric is generally safe, consuming large amounts of it can cause yellowing of the skin because it contains the yellow pigment curcumin.
More research is needed, however, there was a case study where the soles of a woman’s feet turned yellow due to taking large doses of turmeric daily.
If you have yellow feet and are concerned about diabetes or any other medical conditions, it is important to see your doctor or a foot doctor called a podiatrist for a foot exam and proper diagnosis.
If you have yellow feet, it is possible that they can be caused by complications of diabetes.
Carotenemia, advanced glycation end products, and necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum are all conditions that can cause yellowing of the skin and can be caused by diabetes.
However, there are other medical conditions that can also cause yellow feet such as jaundice, Raynaud’s disease, calluses and corns, anemia, and consuming large amounts of turmeric and the cause of it is determined by your doctor.
If you are concerned about your yellow feet or have more questions, please talk to your doctor, podiatrist, or health care provider to learn the cause of your yellow feet and the best way to treat them to keep your feet healthy.
References and sources:
Wiley Online Library
- Glycation Endproducts, Soluble Receptor for Advanced Glycation Endproducts and Cytokines in Diabetic and Non-diabetic Pregnancies
The New England Journal of Medicine
Medical News Today
American Academy of Dermatology Association
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Diabetic.org is devoted to producing expert and accurate articles and information for our readers by hiring experts, journalists, medical professionals, and our growing Diabetic.org community. We encourage you to read more about our content, editing, and fact checking methods here. This was fact checked by Jacqueline Hensler and medically reviewed by Dr. Angel Rivera.
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