5 Diabetes-Related Skin Conditions You Should Know

November 15, 2018

Diabetes can affect your body in different ways. One of those ways is your skin. Up to one-third of people with diabetes will experience skin problems related to their diabetes.

Why do people with diabetes develop skin conditions?

Over time, elevated blood sugar levels tend to reduce blood flow to your skin. This can also cause damage to blood vessels and nerves. Decreased blood circulation leads to changes in your skin's collagen, which changes your skin's texture, appearance, and ability to heal.

What kinds of skin issues should people with diabetes look for?

Here are 5 of the most common skin conditions you should know if you have diabetes:

1) Bacterial Infections

One of the most common skin issues that may come up is bacterial infections. If you have a bacterial infection, your skin will usually be painful, swollen, red, and hot to the touch. Some the infections you might see are:

  • Styes (infections of the glands of your eyelid)
  • Boils
  • Folliculitis (infections of your hair follicles)
  • Carbuncles (deep infections of your skin and the tissue underneath)
  • Infections around your nails

You can usually treat bacterial infections with antibiotics and by controlling your blood sugar.

2) Fungal Infections

Fungal infections, caused by the spread of fungus or yeast, are also something you might see on your skin. They're often caused by a fungus called Candida albicans, which thrives off high levels of glucose.

Fungal infections often look like red rashes and occur in parts of your body that tend to keep in moisture, such as the folds in your skin. These rashes are often itchy and surrounded by scales or blisters. Some common fungal infections include ringworm, athlete's foot, and yeast infections.

Fungal infections can be treated with prescription medication and good diabetes management.

3) Dry, Itchy Skin

Diabetes can cause extremely dry, itchy skin. Dryness and itchiness might be the result of a yeast infection, dry skin, or poor circulation. If it's due to poor circulation, the itchiest areas may by lower parts of your legs.

You can do some things at home to help with itchy and dry skin. Reduce how often you bathe, especially in places with low humidity. Use mild soap made for sensitive skin and always apply a moisturizer or skin cream after your showers or baths.

4) Diabetic Dermopathy

This skin condition is also known as "shin spots." If you have diabetic dermopathy, the main thing you will notice is light brown, oval or circular scaly patches of skin, often on your shins. You might mistake them for age spots, but these patches are due to damage to the small blood vessels that supply your tissue with nutrients and oxygen.

Diabetic dermopathy is not harmful and does not need to be treated, but oftentimes does not go away, even when blood sugar levels are under control.

5) Eruptive Xanthomatosis

Eruptive xanthomatosis is another skin condition that might occur when your blood sugar levels are too high. Insulin resistance can lead to waxy, yellow, pea-like bumps on your skin. The bumps might itch and be surrounded by red circles. You'll most often see them your face or groin, but they can also appear in other places on your body.

These bumps will normally disappear once your blood sugar levels are correctly managed.

What can people with diabetes do to prevent skin conditions?

The best way to prevent skin problems is to manage your diabetes well and keep blood sugar within recommended levels. When diabetes affects your skin, it is a sign that your blood sugar levels are too high. Talk to your doctor about coming up with a plan to manage your blood sugar through medication, diet, and exercise.

You should also practice good skin care. Taking care of your skin every day can keep your skin healthy and also make you more aware of changes to your skin. Here are some things you can do:

  • Check your feet regularly and tell your doctor if you notice any broken skin, calluses, or blisters on your feet. Even small injuries can become more serious for people with diabetes, so make sure you keep an extra close watch.
  • Make sure the water in your shower or bath is not too hot.
  • Use a mild soap when you bathe and moisturize with lotion after you get out of the shower or bath
  • Dry your skin carefully after bathing and apply talc or anti-fungal powder to any folds in your skin and might stay wet or moist such as your underarms, groin, between your toes, or under your breasts.

The good news: most of these skin conditions can be prevented or easily treated if caught early. If you notice any of these skin conditions or other unusual changes in your skin, talk to your doctor or dermatologist right away.

For more tips on how to take care of your feet, read our recent post on 5 steps towards healthy feet.

If you think you have a skin condition related to diabetes, contact your doctor or dermatologist immediately. Treatment is different from person to person. If you have diabetes, make sure that you see a podiatrist at least once a year. Your podiatrist can help you learn about your specific risks when it comes to skin issues.

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