Diabetes can affect every part of the body, including the skin. In fact, such problems are sometimes the first sign that a person has diabetes.
Fortunately, most skin conditions can be prevented or easily treated if caught early.
Some of these problems are skin conditions anyone can have, but people with diabetes get more easily. These include bacterial infections, fungal infections, eczema and itching. Other skin problems happen mostly or only to people with diabetes. These include diabetic dermopathy disease of the skin, necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticoruma skin condition usually on the lower part of the legs. Lesions can be small or extend over a large area. They are usually raised, yellow, and waxy in appearance and often have a purple border, diabetic blisters, and eruptive xanthomatosis.
General Skin Conditions
Infections around the nails
Several kinds of bacterial infections occur in people with diabetes:
Styes (infections of the glands of the eyelid)
Folliculitis (infections of the hair follicles)
Carbuncles (deep infections of the skin and the tissue underneath)
Inflamed tissues are usually hot, swollen, red, and painful. Several different organisms can cause infections, the most common being Staphylococcus bacteria, also called staph.
Once, bacterial infections were life threatening, especially for people with diabetes. Today, death is rare, thanks to antibiotics and better methods of blood sugar1. A class of carbohydrates with a sweet taste, including glucose, fructose and sucrose. A term used to refer to blood glucose control.
But even today, people with diabetes have more bacterial infections than other people do.
Doctors believe people with diabetes can reduce their chances of these infections by practicing good skin care.
If you think you have a bacterial infection, see your doctor.
The culprit in fungal infections of people with diabetes is often Candida albicans.
This yeast-like fungus can create itchy rashes of moist, red areas surrounded by tiny blisters and scales. These infections often occur in warm, moist folds of the skin. Problem areas are under the breasts, around the nails, between fingers and toes, in the corners of the mouth, under the foreskin (in uncircumcised men), and in the armpits and groin.
Common fungal infections include jock itch, athlete’s foot, ringworm (a ring-shaped itchy patch), and vaginal infection that causes itching.
If you think you have a yeast or fungal infection, visit your doctor.
Localized itching is often caused by diabetes. It can be caused by a yeast infection, dry skin, or poor circulation. When poor flow of blood through the body’s blood vessels and heart is the cause of itching, the itchiest areas may be the lower parts of the legs.
You may be able to treat itching yourself in a similar procedure used by many to treat eczema.
Limit how often you bathe, particularly when the humidity is low. Use mild soap with a non-sensitising moisturizer and apply skin cream after bathing.
Diabetes-Related Skin Conditions
Acanthosis nigricans is a condition in which tan or brown raised areas appear on the sides of the neck, armpits and groin. Sometimes they also occur on the hands, elbows and knees.
Acanthosis nigricans usually strikes people who are very overweight and above-normal body weight; having a body mass index of 25 to 29.9. The best treatment is to lose weight. Some creams can help the spots look better.
Diabetes can cause changes in the small blood vesselstubes that carry blood to and from all parts of the body. The three main types of blood vessels are arteries, veins and capillaries. These changes can cause skin problems called diabetic dermopathy.
Dermopathy often looks like light brown, scaly patches. These patches may be oval or circular. Some people mistake them for age spots. This disorder most often occurs on the front of both legs. But the legs may not be affected to the same degree. The patches do not hurt, open up, or itch.
Dermopathy is harmless and doesn’t need to be treated.
Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticorum
Another disease that may be caused by changes in the blood vessels is necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum (NLD). NLD causes spots similar to diabetic dermopathy, but they are fewer, larger, and deeper.
NLD often starts as a dull, red, raised area. After a while, it looks like a shiny scar with a violet border. The blood vessels under the skin may become easier to see. Sometimes NLD is itchy and painful. Sometimes the spots crack open.
NLD is a rare condition. Adult women are the most likely to get it. As long as the sores do not break open, you do not need to have it treated. But if you get open sores, see your doctor for treatment.
Allergic skin reactions can occur in response to medicines, such as insulin or diabetes pills. You should see your doctor if you think you are having a reaction to a medicine. Be on the lookout for rashes, depressions, or bumps at the sites where you inject insulin hormone that helps the body use glucose for energy. The beta cells of the pancreas make insulin. When the body cannot make enough insulin, it is taken by injection or through use of an insulin pump.
Eruptive xanthomatosis is another condition caused by diabetes that’s out of control. It consists of firm, yellow, pea-like enlargements in the skin. Each bump has a red halo and may itch. This condition occurs most often on the backs of hands, feet, arms, legs and buttocks.
The disorder usually occurs in young men with type 1 diabetes condition characterized by high blood glucose levels caused by a total lack of insulin. Occurs when the body’s immune system attacks the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas and destroys them. The pancreas then produces little or no insulin. Type 1 diabetes develops most often in young people but can appear in adults. The person often has high levels of cholesterol type of fat produced by the liver and found in the blood; it is also found in some foods. Cholesterol is used by the body to make hormones and build cell walls and fatone of the three main nutrients in food. Foods that provide fat are butter, margarine, salad dressing, oil, nuts, meat, poultry, fish and some dairy products. 2. Excess calories are stored as body fat, providing the body with a reserve supply of energy and other functions in the blood. Like diabetic blisters, these bumps disappear when diabetes control is restored.
Diabetic Blisters (Bullosis Diabeticorum)
Rarely, people with diabetes erupt in blisters. Diabetic blisters can occur on the backs of fingers, hands, toes,feet and sometimes on legs or forearms. These sores look like burn blisters and often occur in people who have diabetic neuropathy disease of the nervous system. The three major forms in people with diabetes are peripheral neuropathy, autonomic neuropathy, and mono-neuropathy. The most common form is peripheral neuropathy, which affects mainly the legs and feet. They are sometimes large, but they are painless and have no redness around them. They heal by themselves, usually without scars, in about three weeks. The only treatment is to bring blood sugar levels under control.
Sometimes, people with diabetes develop tight, thick, waxy skin on the backs of their hands. Sometimes skin on the toes and forehead also becomes thick. The finger joints become stiff and can no longer move the way they should. Rarely, knees, ankles, or elbows also get stiff.
This condition happens to about one third of people who have type 1 diabetes. The only treatment is to bring blood sugar levels under control.
Disseminated Granuloma Annulare
In disseminated granuloma annulare, the person has sharply defined ring- or arc-shaped raised areas on the skin. These rashes occur most often on parts of the body far from the trunk (for example, the fingers or ears). But sometimes the raised areas occur on the trunk. They can be red, red-brown, or skin-coloured.
See your doctor if you get rashes like this. There are drugs that can help clear up this condition.