There are a number of skin problems associated with diabetes, especially type 2 diabetes. For some people, skin problems are the first sign of diabetes. Most of these conditions are easily treatable, especially when caught and treated early. Keeping your glucose stable and proper skin care are the best ways to prevent skin problems.
Anyone can get bacterial infections of the skin, however, those with diabetes are more prone to these types of infections. The most common cause of bacterial infections is the Staphylococcus bacteria. Such infections include:
- Infections of hair follicles
- Infections of the nails
Areas of infections are red, swollen and may be warm to the touch. They are usually painful.
Fungal infections cause rashes that may have small blisters and be scaly. They often are itchy. Fungal infections are most often found in moist folds of the skin, such as between toes and fingers, in the armpit and groin, under the breast, around the nails and in the corners of the mouth. Common types of fungal infections include athlete’s foot, jock itch, vaginal infections (also called yeast infections) and ringworm. Although anyone can get a fungal infection, those with diabetes get them more often.
You may notice an increased allergic reaction to insect bites or food. Medications you take may cause rashes. If you experience allergic reactions, you should contact your doctor as some allergic reactions are dangerous.
This skin condition appears as round, light brown, scaly patches. It occurs most often on the legs; although both legs are usually affected, they may not be affected to the same degree. The patches do not itch or hurt.
With acanthosis nigricans, there are tan or brown raised areas of thickened skin, which appear on the neck, armpits or groins most often. You might also notice the spots on your hands, elbows or knees. This skin condition occurs most often in people who are overweight, and the spots disappear when you lose weight.
Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticorum
This skin condition begins with red, raised areas on the skin. They may look like a shiny scar, with violet borders. As it develops, the spots are similar to diabetic dermopathy, however, the spots are larger and deeper. There is usually less spots than with diabetic dermopathy. The spots can be itchy and painful and can sometimes crack open. It is more common in women. No treatment is necessary unless the spots crack open, causing open sores.
You may develop blisters that look like burn blisters. This skin condition is rare. Blisters can appear on the fingers, hands, toes, feet, legs or forearms. The blisters are not normally painful and usually heal on their own.
This condition causes thinning and shiny skin, loss of hair and thickened, discolored toenails. Your skin may feel cool to the touch. When you have atherosclerosis, injury to the legs and feet heal slowly.
This condition affects your digits, your fingers and toes. The skin becomes thick, waxy and tight. Your finger joints may feel stiff.
This occurs when diabetes is not properly controlled and glucose levels are out of control. You develop firm, yellow, pea-like growths in your skin. The bumps have a red outline or halo and can become itchy. The bumps are usually found on the backs of your hands, feet, arms, legs and buttocks. They disappear as your diabetes is controlled.
Dissemminated Granuloma Annulare
This skin condition causes rashes in a ring or arc shape. The rash is red, red-brown or skin colored. It usually appears on areas furthers from the trunk, such as the fingers or toes, but can sometimes occur on the skin. You should consult your doctor if you develop these types of rashes.
"Skin Complications," Reviewed 2013, June 7, Staff Writer, American Diabetes Association
"Skin Manifestations of Diabetes," 2008, November, Aart H. Bootsma, H. Bing Thio, Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.