People with diabetes are more prone to developing a variety of skin conditions. Early diagnosis and treatment can help control or eliminate these skin problems. Discover more about unusual skin ailments with diabetes and what to do about them.
- Some skin problems with diabetes are linked to insulin resistance. An example is acanthosis nigricans. The skin becomes a dark tan or brown and thickens in areas such as the skin folds, including the armpits, groin, back or sides of the neck and under the breast, as well as the knuckles. It may precede diabetes and often occurs in people who are overweight. Losing weight can help.
- Another unusual skin ailments associated with diabetes is thickened skin is on the fingers, hands and toes which becomes tight and waxy and can lead to stiffened finger joints. This is called digital sclerosis. Moisturizers can help, as well as controlling your blood sugar levels.
- Vitiligo is often associated with type 1 diabetes, but it can also occur in people with type 2 diabetes. The cells that make pigment (melanin) in the skin are destroyed, causing patches of lightened skin in areas such as the abdomen, chest and face. Micro- pigmentation and steroids are ways to treat vitiligo. People with this condition should use a sunscreen with SPF 30+ to prevent sunburn on the discolored areas.
- People with diabetes often have thin and red skin on the lower legs which could be necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum (NLD). It is linked to changes in collagen and fat under the skin. Lesions may develop and could ulcerate. If the sores break open, consult with a doctor right away.
- Changes in your blood vessels that supply the skin can lead to diabetic dermopathy, which is also referred to as shin spots. Oval lesions form on the front, lower part of the legs and may become itchy. Usually they go away on their own.
- People with diabetes are also more likely to get bacterial and fungal infections. Bacterial infections including Staphylococcus can cause lumps or boils in hair follicle areas. Styes, which are bumps near the eyes, are also bacterial infections. Other common bacterial infections include nail infections and carbuncles. Consult with a doctor, who may prescribe antibiotics in the form of creams or pills.
- Fungal infections are caused by Candida albicans, a yeast-like type of fungus. These infections may include areas such as the mouth, vagina, and nails and between the fingers and toes. Often the rash is red and itchy with tiny scales and blisters. Common fungal infections are jock itch, ringworm and athlete’s foot. Visit the doctor to get a medication to kill the fungus and get rid of the rash.
- People with diabetes frequently develop blisters. Blisters that resemble burns in areas such as the legs, hands, finger, feet and forearms usually occur in people who have neuropathy. It is important to bring your blood glucose levels under control to minimize the symptoms.
- A bumpy rash called disseminated granuloma annulare causes ring shaped areas on the skin in areas such as the chest, fingers, ears and abdomen. The doctor may administer a topical steroid medication, such as hydrocortisone, to relieve this rash.
- Dry skin is a common problem for people with diabetes. It can be caused by poor blood flow, high blood sugars or cold and harsh weather. Use a mild soap and warm water to cleanse your body. Dry off gently and thoroughly. Apply a diabetic lotion to eliminate dryness and reduce itching. Avoid putting moisturizer in the areas between your toes.
There are a variety of unusual skin ailments with diabetes. Maintaining proper blood sugar control and taking good care of the skin is a priority. If a rash is persistent or painful, contact your health care team as it could be an indication of other health care concerns.