Diabetes is a chronic medical condition that can cause a wide range of symptoms and health complications. The skin is one of the first areas to become affected by high blood sugar levels and can become irritated, inflamed or dry. A dermatologist can help manage these skin conditions and prevent further health problems from developing.
Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Increase the Risk for Skin Problems
A person with diabetes has twice the risk of getting certain skin diseases compared to someone without the disease. This is because of the skin’s increased vulnerability to a variety of inflammatory conditions and bacterial infections that are more common in diabetic patients.
Some of the most common skin problems that occur in people with diabetes are xerosis, a common dry skin condition; candidiasis; a fungal infection called athlete’s foot; and bacterial infections like boils or styes. These infections can be very uncomfortable and should be treated as soon as possible by a healthcare provider.
Diabetic Neuropathy: This causes the nerves in the feet and legs to damage or become weak, causing painful and itchy feet and legs. It is often seen as an early symptom of diabetes and should be monitored closely by your healthcare provider.
Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum (NLD): NLD is a common skin condition that occurs in women with diabetes and may cause red, itchy patches to appear on the lower legs. NLD is caused by changes in collagen and fat content under the skin, which can lead to ulceration if the body’s ability to heal is weakened.
Granuloma annulare: This rash often affects children and young adults, but it may also appear in those with diabetes. It starts with red, itchy spots that expand outwards in a ring-like pattern, often affecting the fingers, hands and feet. It usually heals on its own without treatment, but it may need to be steered clear of if the rash is widespread.
Eruptive xanthomatosis: A rash that forms firm, yellow, pea-sized skin bumps encircled in red can also develop in those with diabetes. This rash is most common on the backs of the hands, but it can also occur on the arms, legs and buttocks.
Digital sclerosis: Some people with type 1 diabetes develop hardened, thick, waxy skin on the backs of their hands, which may make it harder to move the fingers and joints. It can also be accompanied by scleredema adultorum of Bushke, which is tightness and thickening of the skin on the back, neck, shoulders and face.
Dermatitis and Psoriasis: People with diabetes are at higher risk for psoriasis, a chronic scaly skin disorder that can be itchy, painful and difficult to treat. A doctor can prescribe topical steroids to help reduce the itching and inflammation of this rash.
The best way to avoid skin problems is to keep your blood glucose levels in the recommended range and to follow a skin care routine. You can also ask your healthcare provider for advice on the best way to moisturize your skin, particularly if you have dry skin or problems with itching.