The skin – Diabetes can affect all body parts, including the skin. There are skin problems that anyone can have, while others are specific to diabetes.
General skin conditions
People with diabetes are more prone to common skin conditions, including bacterial and fungal infections and itching.
Bacterial infections often cause burning, swelling, redness, and pain in the tissues. You can reduce your chance of getting infections with good skin care. Different types of bacteria can cause infections, and staphylococcus is the most common. If you think you have a bacterial infection, see your doctor.
People with diabetes often have a yeast-like fungus called Candida albicans, which causes itchy, moist, red areas surrounded by tiny blisters and scales. These infections usually develop in warm, wet skin folds, including under the breasts, around fingernails, between fingers and toes, at the corners of the mouth, under the foreskin of circumcised men, and in the armpits and groin. Other common fungal infections include jock itch, athlete’s foot, ringworm, and itchy vaginal infections. If you think you have a fungal infection, see your doctor.
Diabetes often causes itching due to dry skin, poor circulation, or yeast infection. If you have poor circulation, your lower legs may feel itchy. One of the ways to treat itchiness is to limit the number of times you bathe, especially if the humidity is low. You can also use neutral soap and moisturising creams or lotions after bathing.
Skin conditions caused by diabetes
The following are the most common conditions in people who have diabetes.
- Acanthosis Nigrican: This condition causes tan or brown patches of skin around the neck, armpits, and groin. It is more common in overweight people. Some creams help improve the skin.
- Diabetic dermopathy: light brown scaly areas are usually seen, which can be oval or circular. Some people think they are age spots. They are caused by changes in the small blood vessels and usually appear in the front of both legs. They do not hurt, bleed or itch and are considered harmless.
- Diabetic necrobiosis lipoidica: This condition causes welts that look like a simple elevation and turn into a shiny scar with a solid border. Sometimes the area can be itchy and sore, and the bumps can break open. It is a rare condition more common in adult women. It only requires treatment if the bruises break open.
- Allergic reactions: Watch for allergic reactions to the medicines you take for diabetes. Check with your doctor if you have allergy symptoms. If you inject insulin, check for rashes, depressions, or lumps in the injected area.
More Skin conditions caused by diabetes
- Diabetic blisters: If you have hyperglycemia, you may get diabetic blisters on the backs of your hands and feet, on your fingers and toes, and sometimes on your legs or forearms. They do not hurt or have redness around them, and they heal independently in about three weeks.
- Eruptive xanthomatosis is another condition that can occur if you have hyperglycemia. It is more common in young men with type 1 diabetes and usually goes away when the diabetes is under control. They are firm, yellow, itchy bumps about the size of a pea with a red halo. They usually appear on the back of the hands, feet, arms, legs and buttocks.
- Digital sclerosis: About 30 per cent of people with uncontrolled type 1 diabetes have hard, thick, waxy skin on the backs of their hands, toes, and sometimes their foreheads. It can cause stiffness in the joints of the fingers of the hands, and the fingers do not move as they should. Sometimes it affects the knees, ankles, and elbows. Therefore, the only treatment is to lower blood glucose to an adequate level.
- Disseminated granuloma annulare: This rash is defined by a raised, ring-shaped or arc-shaped skin area. Red, reddish-brown, or skin-coloured usually appears on the extremities, such as the fingers and ears. Therefore, check with your doctor if you notice such a rash.