Purpura, pigmentation and yellow nails of the lower extremities in diabetics

Acta Med Scand. 1976;199(3):203-8. doi: 10.1111/j.0954-6820.1976.tb06717.x.


This article describes purpura and pigmentations of the lower extremities as well as yellow nails mainly in elderly diabetics but also in persons not known to have diabetes. When the latter were compared to controls, it appeared that their glucose tolerance was altered in a diabetic direction. Precipitating factors could generally be established for these lesions, predominantly cardiac decompensation with edema of the legs, and were more common in patients not known to have open diabetes than in patients with open diabetes. Petechiae were transformed into small, pigmented, non-atrophic spots. Petechiae and pigmented spots were often seen simultaneously. In a few patients small, pigmented, non-atrophic spots were seen as pronounced brown-black pigmentation of the lower legs and feet. In a number of patients with open diabetes or diabetic glucose tolerance, erysipelas with purpura within the area of erysipelas was observed on the lower extremities. Patients with no purpura within the area of erysipelas generally had normal glucose tolerance. The pathogenesis of these lesions is discussed. Atrophic circumscribed skin lesions (Melin), cutaneous erythema, with or without necrosis, purpura, pigmentation, red toes, as well as rubeosis plantarum, yellow nails and neuropathy are often seen simultaneously on the lower extremities of patients with open diabetes as well as of those without open diabetes but with diabetic glucose tolerance.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Diabetes Complications*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leg*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nails*
  • Pigmentation Disorders / etiology*
  • Purpura / etiology*
  • Skin Diseases / etiology