Diabetes can have an effect on any body part, including the skin. The main cause of diabetes varies by type. But no matter what type of diabetes you have, it can lead to excess sugar in the blood. Too much sugar in the blood can lead to serious health problems.
One of the more serious skin signs of diabetes is difficulty healing after experiencing a cut or sore, so it’s essential to keep an eye on any injuries—especially on your lower legs and feet—to prevent infection.
Diabetes-related skin conditions include the following:
Bacterial infections: If you have diabetes you may also be more prone to bacterial infections, which can cause pain, redness, swelling and skin that feels warm to the touch. The most common bacteria that causes infections of the skin are staph and strep, which can lead to boils, styes, folliculitis and changes in the fingernails and toenails. Bacterial infections require medical treatment, which is why it’s imperative to call your doctor if you experience any unusual skin changes.
Fungal and yeast infections: Infections caused by fungus or yeast are one of many diabetes skin complications. They’re more commonly found in those whose glucose levels are not well controlled. Yeast infections appear as areas of red, itchy, swollen skin that may be surrounded by blistering or dry scales and a white, cottage cheese-like discharge in folds of the skin, such as under the breasts as well as in the groin, armpits and corners of the mouth. Common fungal infections in diabetes patients include athlete’s foot, jock itch, and ringworm that can itch, spread, and worsen if not treated with prescription medication.
Acanthosis Nigricans: This condition is characterized by patches of skin around the neck that are darker than a person’s normal skin color. These areas also can appear in the armpits and groin, and sometimes on the knees, elbows, and hands. The skin also may be thicker and take on a velvety texture.
Diabetic dermopathy: Also known as “shin spots,” these diabetes skin symptoms involve light brown, oval or circular patches of scaly skin on the lower legs due to damage to the small blood vessels that supply the tissues with nutrition and oxygen. Although this form of diabetes-related skin discoloration typically does not require treatment, it may persist even when your blood glucose is well-controlled.
Bullosis Diabeticorum or Blisters: These are painless, sometimes large blisters that arise spontaneously on the tops and sides of the lower legs and feet, and sometimes on the hands or the forearms.
Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum (NLD): Though rarer than diabetic dermopathy, NLD also causes patches of dark skin on the legs, which are sometimes associated with extreme itching and pain. Though treatment is generally unnecessary, it is important to talk to your doctor about ways to prevent this condition from progressing.
Eruptive xanthomatosis: Characterized by a pea-size, yellowish enlargement in the skin, eruptive xanthomatosis appears with a red halo around the nodule and frequently itches. High triglycerides and high blood glucose levels can bring on eruptive xanthomatosis. Keeping these numbers at a normal level can help eruptive xanthomatosis subside.
Digital sclerosis: Elevated blood sugar can increase your risk of digital sclerosis, which leads to joint stiffness in the hands, fingers and toes while causing skin in these areas to become thick, tight and waxy. Although rare, patients who experience nerve damage from type-2 diabetes may also develop blisters that look like burns. These painless lesions usually heal in a few weeks and typically occur only if blood glucose is not controlled.
Vitiligo: When people develop white patches on their bodies, it is called vitiligo. It is most commonly found in body folds, near moles or at the site of a previous skin injury. Vitiligo is permanent and has no known cure. Certain treatments can improve the skin’s appearance.
If you think you have a skin condition related to diabetes, contact Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center by calling 330-425-7600 or schedule an appointment online. Dr. Monique S. Cohn can help you monitor changes in your skin, new cuts or injuries, slow-healing wounds and skin infections before they worsen and cause more harmful effects.