The hidden signs on your nails that could mean you’ve got diabetes | The Sun

DIABETES is a common condition that causes issues with the levels of sugar in the blood.

In most cases, it can cause symptoms such as excessive thirst, needing to pee a lot and tiredness, according to the NHS.

But one expert has now said that you might also notice warning signs on your nails.

Speaking to The Sun, Dr Sarah White, associate clinical director, from Bupa Health Clinics said diabetes can lead to nail infections and vulnerabilities -and warned those with the condition must be vigilant.

It's estimated that around 4.9 million people in the UK have diabetes, with 13.6 million being at an increased risk.

With that in mind, it's key to know the little known signs of the condition.

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Changes to nails could be a sign of poorly controlled diabetes and without early intervention, further health complications may be likely, Dr White warned.


Research shows that diabetes can affect the proteins in your nails, due to an increased rate of a process called glycosylation.

Dr White explained that this process is suggested to be a cause of yellowing nails. 

"If your nails have changed colour, it could mean you’ve had high blood sugar, or poorly controlled diabetes for some time," she said.

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Fungal infections

Fungal nail infections are also common in those who have diabetes, Dr White said.

This is because increased glucose levels can cause gradual damage to nerves and blood vessels.

"With a poorer blood supply and higher glucose levels, fungal infections are more likely to take hold.

"Higher glucose levels also mean that any bacteria around the feet can develop into infection more quickly," the expert said.

The key symptoms of diabetes you must know

The NHS states you should visit your GP as soon as possible if you experience any of the main symptoms of diabetes which include:

  • feeling very thirsty
  • peeing more frequently than usual, particularly at night
  • feeling very tired
  • weight loss and loss of muscle bulk
  • itching around the penis or vagina, or frequent episodes of thrush
  • cuts or wounds that heal slowly
  • blurred vision

Puffy nail beds

Dr White said patients with diabetes should check their nail beds, as they can often show signs of infection.

For example, the medic said they could be puffy, red and you may feel pain at the nail base or in your feet.

"If you find that you’re prone to recurrent nail bed or fungal nail infections, make sure you check your blood sugar levels and seek medical advice," she said.

Thin nails

Some of your body’s longest nerves go from your brain to your toes, so if you have nerve damage, you may have less feeling in your feet, Dr White explained.

This is likely to increase your risk of foot trauma, as you accidentally walk into things and damage your toenails.

"When blood circulation around your feet is reduced, it can lead to your nails becoming thin and more likely to split or break.

"When the nail is damaged, it’s more prone to infections from dirt or moisture," she added.

Thick nails

Along with making your nails a funny colour, Dr White said fungal infections could also cause your nails to become thicker at the end.

This can gradually spread up the nail, causing it to become thick and brittle, she added.

If the nail does reach this stage, then it's more vulnerable to becoming sharp, breaking off and causing damage to other toes.

"These nail changes could happen either by themselves, or whilst trying to cut the thickened nail in established diabetes – in each instance they could turn into a foot ulcer," she added.

Dr White added that once you have a diabetes diagnosis, spotting signs of nerve damage or circulation issues early is key to avoid complications such as developing ulcers or infections, and in the worst cases, amputation.

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She added that anyone with diabetes must get into the habit of checking their feet and nails every day – even if they feel fine.

"If you spot anything that looks amiss, speak to a health professional as soon as you can to get checked over," she added.

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