Diabetes : Skin Complications



Skin Disease in Diabetes Mellitus

The skin, like the body’€™s other parts can be affected by diabetes. About 33% of diabetics will get a skin condition at one time or another due to diabetes. For some, such skin problems are the first indication of diabetes. Fortunately, many of the skin problems can be avoided or treated if they are noticed early.

Some are skin conditions just about anyone can suffer from, but diabetics are more prone to them. They are bacterial infections, fungal infections, and itching. However, there are some skin conditions which usually or only happen to diabetics. They are diabetic dermopathy, diabetic blisters, eruptive xanthomatosis, and necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum.

General Skin Conditions

Bacterial Infections

Some types of bacterial infections are suffered by diabetics:

  • Infections at the edge of the nails
  • Carbuncles (deep tissue and skin infections)
  • Folliculitis ( hair follicle infections)
  • Boils
  • Styes (infections which occur in the glands located in the eyelid)

Tissues which are inflamed are red, swollen, hot, and painful. Many different organisms cause infections, the commonest being Staphylococcus bacteria, which is also known as staph.

There was a time when infections can cause death, particularly to diabetics. Fortunately, with the advent of antibiotics and improved management of blood glucose today, death seldom occurs.

Diabetics suffer from more bacterial infections than non-diabetics. It is the belief of doctors that good care of the skin can lessen the possibility of diabetics getting such infections.

If you notice any bacterial infections, go to your doctor.

Fungal Infections

Candida albicans is the cause of fungal infections among diabetics. This fungus which is yeast-like can cause moist, red patches of itchy rashes with scales and blisters surrounding them. They are usually found in the warm, slightly moist skin, in the folds.The susceptible areas are below the breast, armpits and groin, beneath the foreskin of the male organ in men who are not circumcised, mouth corners, between the fingers as well as the toes, and areas surrounding the nails.

Some of the more usual fungal infections are athlete’€™s foot, jock itch, ringworm which is an itchy ring-shaped area of skin, and vaginal infection which itches.

Visit your doctor if you believe you have a fungal or a yeast infection. Prescription medicine will be required to cure the problem.


Diabetes is usually the cause of localized itching. It can also be due to a yeast infection, poor circulation, or dry skin. The legs, at the lower part, feel most of the itch if the cause is poor circulation.

Itching can be easily treated by yourself. When the day is dry, limit the times you bathe. You should use a mild soap together with moisturizer. Apply a skin cream to those problem areas after the bath.

How Are Diabetes Skin Problems Treated? – Video Guide

Diabetes-Related Skin Problems

Diabetic Dermopathy

Small blood vessel changes can result from diabetes. Such changes can bring about a skin condition known as dermopathy.

Dermopathy usually appear as scaly, light brown patches which can be circular or oval. They can be mistaken as age spots. This condition usually appears on both legs, in the front portion. The affected areas may be big or small but they do not itch, open up or hurt.

Dermopathy does not require treatment as it brings no harm.

Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticorum

Another skin problem which can be due to blood vessel changes is NLD (necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum). NLD results in spots which are the same as diabetic dermopathy, except that these spots are deeper, bigger, and less.

NLD usually begins with a raised area which has a dull red color. Then, it changes into a bright scar with a border which is violet in color. The blood vessels beneath the skin are more visible. NLD is sometimes itchy and painful. The sots break open sometimes.

NLD is rarely experienced, with adult women most likely people to suffer from it. No treatment is required if the sores remain unopened. However, if the sores do break open, seek treatment from a doctor.


Atherosclerosis, in which the arteries thicken, can bring skin problems to the legs. Diabetics get atherosclerosis when younger than non-diabetics.

With atherosclerosis narrowing the vessels of the blood, changes happen to the skin. It becomes shiny, thin, cool and hairless.The toes are cold. Toenails discolor and thicken. Pain occurs in the calf muscles during exercise because insufficient oxygen is reaching the muscles.

The affected legs are slow to heal if the skin suffers an injury as insufficient white cells to fight off the infection are being brought to the area. Minor cuts can lead to open sores which takes a long time to heal.

Foot injuries are more common among people suffering from neuropathy. They happen because these people do not feel the pressure, cold, heat, or pain as well as ordinary people. These people can injure their feet without being aware of the injuries. So, the injury is not treated and infection takes place. Worse, the slower blood flow causes it to be more serious.

Allergic Reactions

The skin can get allergic reactions to medicines like insulin or diabetes pills. See a doctor if you get such a reaction to any of your medicines. Watch out for bumps, depressions or rashes at the places where insulin has been injected.

Diabetic Blisters (Bullosis Diabeticorum)

Seldom do diabetics get blisters. Diabetic blisters do happen at the back of the hands, fingers, feet, toes, and on forearms or legs. They look very much the same as burn blisters, occurring in persons suffering from diabetic neuropathy. Large sometimes and painless, these sores heal without treatment after approximately three weeks, leaving no scars. There is only the need to control blood glucose levels.

Eruptive Xanthomatosis

Eruptive xanthomatosis is due to poorly managed diabetes. It appears as firm, yellow colored skin enlargements which look like peas. Every pea-like enlargement has what appears like a halo which is red in color and can itch. The skin enlargements are usually found on buttocks ,feet, hands, arms, and legs.

The condition often happens to young type 1 diabetic men. These diabetics usually have high cholesterol and fat levels in the bloodstream. Similar to diabetic blisters, the condition goes away once blood sugar levels are under control.

Digital Sclerosis

Sometimes, diabetics develop hands with taut, thick shiny skin behind the palm. Sometimes, skin on the forehead and toes becomes thick. The joints in the finger cannot move as smoothly as before. Seldom, elbows, ankles and knees also become stiff.

Approximately one third of type 1 diabetics get this condition. Treatment for this is getting levels of blood glucose under control again.

Disseminated Granuloma Annulare

People with disseminated granuloma annulare, have raised skin areas which are clearly defined arc- or ring-shaped. These rashes usually are at places like the fingers, toes and ears as well as the trunk sometimes. These raised areas are red, skin-colored, or red-brown,.

Go and get treatment from your doctor if you have rashes such as these since this condition can be cured with drugs.

Acanthosis Nigricans

Acanthosis nigricans occurs on the armpits, neck, and groin as raised areas which are brown in color. They also happen on the hands, knees and elbows sometimes.

Acanthosis nigricans often happen to overweight people. Losing weight is the best treatment. Certain creams can be used to make the spots appear better.

*** Posted By Natasha A.Nada ***