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Skin and diabetes

written by Vidya Sury May 1, 2014
skin and diabetes

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Diabetes brings a greater risk of skin problems, especially dry skin. If you are on insulin, the scarring from insulin injections affects how the body absorbs insulin. Since diabetes also means a higher risk for infection even a minor skin problem must be treated right away, before it can become a big problem.

Skin problems can be:

  • specifically diabetes related
  • an existing skin infection that turns worse because of high blood sugar
  • from insulin shots

skin and diabetes

Some of the most common conditions related to skin and diabetes

Diabetic dermopathy

This manifests as light brown scaly round spots on the shins and look like age spots. But they are a result of the changes in the small blood vessels. They are usually nothing to worry about and may not need treatment.

Disseminated granuloma annulare

That’s a fancy name for reddish brown or red or even skin colored raised arcs or rings on the skin. Common places where they appear are fingers, ears, lower legs, or on the trunk of your body. A topical cream may be prescribed to treat it.

Digital sclerosis.

That’s nothing to do with electronics or the internet. Usually experienced by those with type 1 diabetes, this is a condition where the skin on the back of the hands looks waxy, thick and rather tight. The finger joints also become stiff and difficult to move. Sometimes this appears on the forehead, toes and elbows, knees and ankles. The best way to treat this is keep blood sugar under control.

Acanthosis nigricans

Insulin resistance and being overweight can cause the skin on the neck, armpits or groin to thicken and appear brownish. To treat this, lose weight and take diabetes medication on time so that the body accepts the insulin.

Eruptive xanthomatosis

High cholesterol and fat in young men with type 1 diabetes get this condition where raised, yellow, pea-sized bumps with a red halo appear on the hands, arms feet, legs and buttocks. These itch. The best way to treat this is to get blood sugar under control.

Infections of the skin and diabetes

Bacterial skin infections are common with diabetes and can be a simple boil, hair follicle infection or nail bed infection. Fungal infections are also common and occur in warm and sweaty parts of the body such as the armpits, groin area, between the fingers and toes, under the breasts, etc. While athlete’s foot, jock itch, and vaginal infections are generally common treatment is harder for those with diabetes.

The best way to prevent skin infections with diabetes is to maintain blood sugar levels as out of control blood glucose can trigger them.

Here’s what you can do:

  • Check your feet and any areas of your body that get damp and sweaty every day.
  • Use moisturizer on dry skin daily to keep it from cracking and itching. Don’t apply moisturizer between your toes, though.
  • If you think you have an infection anywhere on your body, call your doctor.

Remember, over the counter products may not be effective on existing skin infections.

Skin and diabetes – Insulin related skin problems

If you use insulin, skin problems can appear in the area where you inject yourself. If it is in the same spot over and over, a little lump of fat tissue builds up and prevents insulin absorption. Sometimes, the fatty tissue under the area of injection can thin out and this also impedes the absorption of insulin. Insulin pumps also cause allergic reactions via the adhesive used to stick it to the skin. For some, the type of insulin may cause allergies. This can show up as swellings and itching and must not be ignored.

The best way to avoid skin problems from insulin shots is to give it in different spots. Always remember to wash hands and skin area to prevent infections. Some scarring cannot be avoided, though. Rotating the area is the best way to avoid infections. The stomach, hips, thighs, arms and buttocks are all suitable places. The stomach is considered the least painful.

Keeping blood sugar levels under control, getting enough exercise and living a healthy lifestyle all help avoid problems related to skin and diabetes. If you see something unusual on your skin, attend to it right away!

Stay healthy.

Day 19 of the A to Z Blogging Challenge
S for Skin and Diabetes

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