- Diabetes: 12 warning signs that appear on your skin
- 1. Yellow, reddish, or brown patches on your skin
- 2. Darker area of skin that feels like velvet
- 3. Hard, thickening skin
- 4. Blisters
- 5. Skin infections
- 6. Open sores and wounds
- 7. Shin spots
- 8. Outbreak of small, reddish-yellow bumps
- 9. Red or skin-colored raised bumps
- 10. Extremely, dry itchy skin
- 11. Yellowish scaly patches on and around your eyelids
- 12. Skin tags
- When to see a dermatologist
- Can Diabetes Cause Itchy Feet?
- Diabetes: Skin Conditions
- Skin Complications
- Skin Complications
- General skin conditions
- Diabetes-related skin conditions
- Good skin care
- Is Diabetes Causing Itching?
- Genital itching
- What to do about itching?
- When to see a doctor
- Skin Conditions and Diabetes: What You Need to Know
- Early Symptoms of Diabetes
Diabetes: 12 warning signs that appear on your skin
Diabetes can affect many parts of your body, including your skin. When diabetes affects the skin, it’s often a sign that your blood sugar (glucose) levels are too high. This could mean that:
You have undiagnosed diabetes, or pre-diabetes
Your treatment for diabetes needs to be adjusted
If you notice any of the following warning signs on your skin, it’s time to talk with your doctor.
1. Yellow, reddish, or brown patches on your skin
This skin condition often begins as small raised solid bumps that look like pimples. As it progresses, these bumps turn into patches of swollen and hard skin. The patches can be yellow, reddish, or brown.
You may also notice:
- The surrounding skin has a shiny porcelain-like appearance
- You can see blood vessels
- The skin is itchy and painful
- The skin disease goes through cycles where it is active, inactive, and then active again The medical name for this condition is necrobiosis lipodica.
- Get tested for diabetes, if you have not been diagnosed.
- Work with your doctor to better control your diabetes.
- See a dermatologist about your skin. Necorbiosis lipodica is harmless, but it can lead to complications.
2. Darker area of skin that feels like velvet
A dark patch (or band) of velvety skin on the back of your neck, armpit, groin, or elsewhere could mean that you have too much insulin in your blood. This is often a sign of prediabetes. The medical name for this skin condition is acanthosis nigricans.
Acanthosis Nigricans (AN)
Often causing darker skin in the creases of the neck, AN may be the first sign that someone has diabetes.
- Get tested for diabetes
3. Hard, thickening skin
When this develops on the fingers, toes, or both, the medical name for this condition is digital sclerosis.
On the hands, you’ll notice tight, waxy skin on the backs of your hands. The fingers can become stiff and difficult to move. If diabetes has been poorly controlled for years, it can feel like you have pebbles in your fingertips.
Hard, thick, and swollen-looking skin can spread, appearing on the forearms and upper arms. It can also develop on the upper back, shoulders, and neck. Sometimes, the thickening skin spreads to the face, shoulders, and chest.
In rare cases, the skin over the knees, ankles, or elbows also thickens, making it difficult to straighten your leg, point your foot, or bend your arm. Wherever it appears, the thickened skin often has the texture of an orange peel.
This skin problem usually develops in people who have complications due to diabetes or diabetes that is difficult to treat.
- Tell your doctor about the thickening skin. Getting better control of your diabetes can bring relief.
- You may also need physical therapy. When the thickening skin develops on a finger, toe, or other area with joints, physical therapy can help you keep your ability to bend and straighten the joint.
It’s rare, but people with diabetes can see blisters suddenly appear on their skin. You may see a large blister, a group of blisters, or both. The blisters tend to form on the hands, feet, legs, or forearms and look like the blisters that appear after a serious burn. Unlike the blisters that develop after a burn, these blisters are not painful.
Large blisters like this one can form on the skin of people who have diabetes.
The medical name for this condition is bullosis diabetricorum. Sometimes, it’s called diabetic bullae.
- Tell your doctor about the blisters. You’ll want to take steps to prevent an infection.
- Talk with your doctor about how to better control your diabetes.
5. Skin infections
People who have diabetes tend to get skin infections. If you have a skin infection, you’ll notice one or more of the following:
- Hot, swollen skin that is painful
- An itchy rash and sometimes tiny blisters, dry scaly skin, or a white discharge that looks like cottage cheese A skin infection can occur on any area of your body, including between your toes, around one or more of your nails, and on your scalp.
Has it been a year or longer since your last period, and do you get several yeast infections each year? It’s possible that you have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
- Get immediate treatment for the infection.
- Tell your doctor if you have frequent skin infections. You could have undiagnosed diabetes.
- If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you may need better control of it.
6. Open sores and wounds
Having high blood sugar (glucose) for a long time can lead to poor circulation and nerve damage. You may have developed these if you’ve had uncontrolled (or poorly controlled) diabetes for a long time.
Poor circulation and nerve damage can make it hard for your body to heal wounds. This is especially true on the feet. These open wounds are called diabetic ulcers.
Diabetes and feet
If you have diabetes, you should check your feet every day for sores and open wounds.
- Get immediate medical care for an open sore or wound.
- Work with your doctor to better control your diabetes.
7. Shin spots
This skin condition causes spots (and sometimes lines) that create a barely noticeable depression in the skin. It’s common in people who have diabetes. The medical name is diabetic dermopathy. It usually forms on the shins. In rare cases, you’ll see it on the arms, thighs, trunk, or other areas of the body.
Diabetic dermopathy: This 55-year-old man has had diabetes for many years.
The spots are often brown and cause no symptoms. For these reasons, many people mistake them for age spots. Unlike age spots, these spots and lines usually start to fade after 18 to 24 months. Diabetic dermopathy can also stay on the skin indefinitely.
- Tell your doctor about these spots.
- Work with your doctor to better control your diabetes.
- If you haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes, get tested.
8. Outbreak of small, reddish-yellow bumps
When these bumps appear, they often look like pimples. Unlike pimples, they soon develop a yellowish color. You’ll usually find these bumps on the buttocks, thighs, crooks of the elbows, or backs of the knees. They can form anywhere though.
These bumps appear suddenly and clear promptly when diabetes is well-controlled.
When these bumps appear, they often look like pimples. Unlike pimples, they soon develop a yellowish color. You’ll usually find these bumps on the buttocks, thighs, crooks of the elbows, or backs of the knees. They can form anywhere though. No matter where they form, they are usually tender and itchy. The medical name for this skin condition is eruptive xanthomatosis.
- Tell your doctor about the bumps because this skin condition appears when you have uncontrolled diabetes.
- Talk with your doctor about how to better control your diabetes.
9. Red or skin-colored raised bumps
Whether this skin condition is associated with diabetes is controversial. We know that most people who have granuloma annulare do not have diabetes. Several studies, however, have found this skin condition in patients who have diabetes. One such study found that people with diabetes were most likely to have granuloma annulare over large areas of skin and that the bumps came and went. Another study concluded that people who have granuloma annulare that comes and goes should be tested for diabetes.
This skin condition causes bumps and patches that may be skin-colored, red, pink, or bluish purple.
- Let your doctor know if you have bumps like those shown here, especially if the bumps come and go.
10. Extremely, dry itchy skin
Dry, itchy skin
If you have diabetes, you’re more likely to have dry skin. High blood sugar (glucose) can cause this. If you have a skin infection or poor circulation, these could also contribute to dry, itchy skin.
- Tell your doctor about your extremely dry skin. Gaining better control of diabetes can reduce dryness.
- If you continue to have dry skin after you gain better control of your diabetes, a dermatologist can help.
11. Yellowish scaly patches on and around your eyelids
These develop when you have high fat levels in your blood. It can also be a sign that your diabetes is poorly controlled. The medical name for this condition is xanthelasma.
- Tell your doctor about the yellowish scaly patches around your eyes.
- Talk with your doctor about how to better control your diabetes. Controlling diabetes can clear the scaly patches.
Many people have skin tags—skin growths that hang from a stalk. While harmless, having numerous skin tags may be a sign that you have too much insulin in your blood or type 2 diabetes.
These growths are most common on the eyelids, neck, armpit, and groin.
- Ask your doctor if you should get tested for diabetes.
- If you have diabetes, ask your doctor if you need better control of it.
When to see a dermatologist
Diabetes can cause many other skin problems. Most skin problems are harmless, but even a minor one can become serious in people who have diabetes. A board-certified dermatologist can recognize skin problems due to diabetes and help you manage them.
Image 1: Image Courtesy of Clark C. Otley, MD. All Rights Reserved
Images 3, 7, 8, 9: Used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides.
Image 2 from DermNetNZ
Some images used with permission of Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
Images 5, 6 and 10: Getty Images
Cohen Sabban, EN. “Cutaneous manifestations of diabetes mellitus from A to Z.” Focus session presented at: 74th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology; March 4-8, 2016; Washington D.C.
Duff M, Demidova O, et al. “Cutaneous manifestations of diabetes mellitus.” Clinical Diabetes. 2015;33:40-8.
Kalus AA, Chien AJ, et al. “Diabetes mellitus and other endocrine disorders.” In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (seventh edition). McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008:1461-70.
McKinley-Grant L, Warnick M, et al. “Cutaneous manifestations of systemic disease.” In: Kelly AP and Taylor S. Dermatology for Skin of Color. (first edition). The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. China, 2009:481-4.
Morgan AJ and Schwartz RA. “Diabetic dermopathy: A subtle sign with grave implications.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;58:447-51.
Yosipovitch G, Loh KC, et al. “Medical pearl: Scleroderma-like skin changes in patients with diabetes mellitus.” J Am Acad Dermatol. 2003;48:109-11.
- back of the hands
- Styes (infections of the glands of the eyelid)
- Folliculitis (infections of the hair follicles)
- Carbuncles (deep infections of the skin and the tissue underneath)
- Infections around the nails
- Keep your diabetes well managed. People with high glucose levels tend to have dry skin and less ability to fend off harmful bacteria. Both conditions increase the risk of infection.
- Keep skin clean and dry.
- Avoid very hot baths and showers. If your skin is dry, don’t use bubble baths. Moisturizing soaps may help. Afterward, use a standard skin lotion, but don’t put lotions between toes. The extra moisture there can encourage fungus to grow.
- Prevent dry skin. Scratching dry or itchy skin can open it up and allow infection to set in. Moisturize your skin to prevent chapping, especially in cold or windy weather.
- Treat cuts right away. Wash minor cuts with soap and water. Only use an antibiotic cream or ointment if your doctor says it’s okay. Cover minor cuts with sterile gauze. See a doctor right away if you get a major cut, burn, or infection.
- During cold, dry months, keep your home more humid. Bathe less during this weather, if possible.
- Use mild shampoos.
- Do not use feminine hygiene sprays.
- See a dermatologist (skin doctor) about skin problems if you are not able to solve them yourself.
- Take good care of your feet. Check them every day for sores and cuts. Wear broad, flat shoes that fit well. Check your shoes for foreign objects before putting them on.
- Talk to your doctor or dermatologist (skin doctor) if you are not able to solve a skin problem yourself.
- Provide a moist environment necessary for healing
- Remove excess debris (dead tissue)
- Promote new growth necessary to close the wound
- Protect the ulcer from infection and further injury
- One is a sty, which is an infection of the glands of the eyelids.
- A second type is a boil, which are infections of the hair follicles.
- Carbuncles are deep infections of the skin and the tissue underneath. Infections can also occur around the nails.
- Keep your skin dry and clean. Use powder to keep folds of skin dry.
- Avoid very hot baths and showers. Use moisturizing soaps if your skin is dry. Use a lotion that your physician suggests after bathing. Keep the skin between toes dry—no lotions there.
- Prevent dry skin. Use lotions especially in the winter.
- Treat minor cuts and scrapes immediately. Use soap and water only. Nothing else as it is too harsh. See your doctor right away for a major cut, infection, or burn.
- Use unscented soaps and mild shampoos.
- In winter months, use a humidifier when the heat is on.
- Take care of your feet. See our article on the subject so that you know how to do this. If you can, visit a podiatrist on a regular basis.
- Keep the name of a dermatologist in your telephone book just in case you cannot cure your skin condition.
- Drink lots of fluids, such as water, to keep your skin moist and healthy.
- Wear all cotton underwear. It allows air to circulate
- Examine your body after washing to see if you have any of the skin conditions we listed. Let’s keep infections at bay.
- Weight Loss
- Blurry Vision
- Extreme Thirst
- Frequent Urination
- Increased Appetite
- Fruity Breath Odor
- Fatigue and Weakness
- Rapid Deep Breathing
Can Diabetes Cause Itchy Feet?
These conditions aren’t the only reasons for itchy feet. Diabetes may also put you at risk for other skin conditions, which also cause itching.
High blood sugar weakens the immune system, so there’s a chance of developing bacterial skin infections with diabetes. A cut, blister, or other break in the skin allows bacteria to enter your body. This puts you at risk for itchy skin infections like impetigo and folliculitis.
A topical or oral antibiotic applied to the affected area can kill the bacteria and help your skin heal.
Athlete’s foot is caused by candida, a yeast-like fungus that can develop in the moist folds of skin. A weak immune system also puts you at risk for these types of infections, which can itch and occur in between your toes.
Apply a topical antifungal cream to kill the fungus and stop the infection.
Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum (NLD)
This inflammatory condition affects about 0.3 percent of people with diabetes. It’s the result of collagen damage caused by changes to the small blood vessels underneath the skin. Symptoms include thickening blood vessels, as well as painful, itchy raised spots or pimples.
NLD can occur on one or both shins, but it may also develop on other parts of the leg. You don’t have to treat the condition unless you have symptoms. A topical steroid cream or steroid injection can stop inflammation and get rid of these spots and pimples.
People with diabetic neuropathy are susceptible to diabetic blisters on their toes, feet, and other parts of their body. The cause is unknown, but blisters may develop when blood sugar is too high, and then triggered by friction or a skin infection.
Some blisters don’t cause symptoms like pain, but other blisters may itch. Diabetic blisters heal on their own and usually don’t require treatment. However, there’s a risk of an infection developing. Any blisters, callouses, or wounds should be carefully monitored for infection.
This condition is also the result of uncontrolled blood sugar. It causes yellow, pea-like bumps on the skin that can itch.
These bumps tend to appear on the:
Bumps disappear once blood sugar is under control.
Disseminated granuloma annulare
This skin condition causes ring or arch-like raised areas on different parts of the skin due to inflammation. They tend to appear on the:
The rash isn’t painful, but it can itch. It’ll disappear on its own within a few months, but you can apply a topical cortisone cream to help it go away sooner.
Diabetes: Skin Conditions
Diabetes can affect every part of the body, including the skin. Many people with diabetes will have a skin disorder caused or affected by diabetes at some time in their lives. In some cases, skin problems can be the first sign that a person has diabetes.
In some cases, people with diabetes develop skin conditions that can affect anyone. Examples of these conditions include bacterial infections, fungal infections, and itching. However, people with diabetes also are more prone to getting certain conditions. These include diabetic dermopathy, necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum, and eruptive xanthomatosis. Some common skin conditions in people with diabetes:
This is a condition that results in the darkening and thickening of the skin. Often, areas of tan or brown skin, sometimes slightly raised, appear on the sides of the neck, the armpits, and groin. Occasionally, these darkened areas might appear on the hands, elbows, and knees. Acanthosis nigricans can affect otherwise healthy people, or it can be associated with certain medical conditions. It is frequently found in people with diabetes.
Allergic reactions to foods, bug bites, and medicines can cause rashes, depressions or bumps on the skin. If you think you might be having an allergic reaction to a medicine, contact your health care provider. Severe allergic reactions might require emergency treatment. It is especially important for people with diabetes to check for rashes or bumps in the areas where they inject their insulin.
Atherosclerosis is the narrowing of blood vessels thickening of the vessel walls. While atherosclerosis most often is associated with blood vessels in or near the heart, it can affect blood vessels throughout the body, including those that supply the skin. When the blood vessels supplying the skin become narrow, changes occur due to a lack of oxygen. Loss of hair, thinning and shiny skin, thickened and discolored toenails, and cold skin are symptoms of atherosclerosis. Because blood carries the white blood cells that help fight infection, legs and feet affected by atherosclerosis heal slowly when they are injured.
There are different kinds of bacterial infections affecting the skin. These include styes, which are infections of the glands of the eyelids; boils, which are infections of the hair follicles; and carbuncles, which are deep infections of the skin and the underlying tissue. There also are bacterial infections that affect the nails. With a bacterial infection, the areas involved generally are hot, swollen, red, and painful. Most bacterial infections require treatment with antibiotics in the form of pills and/or creams.
Bullosis diabeticorum (diabetic blisters)
In rare cases, people with diabetes develop blisters that resemble burn blisters. These blisters—called bullosis diabeticorum—can occur on the fingers, hands, toes, feet, legs, or forearms. Diabetic blisters usually are painless and heal on their own. They often occur in people who have diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetes can affect the small blood vessels of the body that supply the skin with blood. Changes to the blood vessels because of diabetes can cause a skin condition called diabetic dermopathy. Dermopathy appears as scaly patches that are light brown or red, often on the front of the legs. The patches do not hurt, blister, or itch, and treatment generally is not necessary. The patches are sometimes called skin spots.
The word “digital” refers to your fingers and toes, and “sclerosis” means hardening. Digital sclerosis, therefore, is a condition in which the skin on your toes, fingers, and hands become thick, waxy, and tight. Stiffness of the finger joints also might occur. Lotions and moisturizers might help soften the skin.
This condition causes sharply defined, ring- or arc-shaped areas on the skin. These rashes most often occur on the fingers, hands, and feet, but they can occur on the trunk. The rash can be red, red-brown, or skin colored. Treatment usually is not required, but some cases might benefit from a topical steroid medicine, such as hydrocortisone.
Eruptive xanthomatosis can occur in some individuals when blood glucose levels are not well controlled and when triglycerides in the blood rise to extremely high levels. This condition appears as firm, yellow, pea-like bumps on the skin. The bumps—which are surrounded by red halos and can be itchy—usually are found on the feet, arms, legs, buttocks, and backs of the hands. Lipid-lowering drugs might be needed.
A yeast-like fungus called Candida albicans is responsible for many of the fungal infections affecting people with diabetes. This fungus creates itchy red rashes, often surrounded by tiny blisters and scales. These infections most often occur in warm, moist folds of the skin. Treatment of fungal infections involves keeping the area dry and using a combination of topical steroid and antifungal medicines.
Itching skin, also called pruritus, can have many causes, such as a yeast infection, dry skin, or poor blood flow. When itching is caused by poor blood flow, the lower legs and feet are most often affected. Use lotions or creams, avoid taking hot showers, and use gentle soaps to help keep your skin soft and moist. Moisturizers will also prevent itching due to dry skin.
Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum
Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum (NLD) is caused by changes in the blood vessels and generally affects the lower legs. With NLD, the affected skin becomes raised, yellow, and waxy in appearance, often with a bluish-purple border. Sometimes, NLD is itchy and painful. As long as the sores do not break open, treatment is not necessary. See your health care provider for treatment if the sores do break open or if the lesions are painful.
Like digital sclerosis, this condition causes a thickening of the skin; but scleroderma diabeticorum affects the skin on the back of the neck and upper back. This condition, which is rare, most often affects people with diabetes who are overweight. Lotions and moisturizers might help soften the skin.
Vitiligo is a condition that affects skin coloration. With vitiligo, the cells that make pigment (the substance that controls skin color) are destroyed, resulting in patches of discolored skin. Vitiligo often affects the elbows, knees, and hands, but it might be found on the face (around the mouth, nostrils, and eyes). This condition can be seen in people with type 1 diabetes. You should use sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher to prevent sunburn on the discolored skin.
How can these skin problems be prevented?
Keeping your diabetes under control is the most important factor in preventing the skin-related complications of diabetes. Follow your health care provider’s advice regarding nutrition, exercise, and medicine. Maintaining control of blood glucose level within the range recommended by your health care provider is most important. Proper skin care also can help reduce your risk of skin-related problems.
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Diabetes can affect every part of the body, including the skin. In fact, such problems are sometimes the first sign that a person has diabetes. Luckily, most skin conditions can be prevented or easily treated if caught early.
Some of these problems are skin conditions anyone can have, but people with diabetes get more easily. These include bacterial infections, fungal infections, and itching. Other skin problems happen mostly or only to people with diabetes. These include diabetic dermopathy, necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum, diabetic blisters, and eruptive xanthomatosis.
General skin conditions
Several kinds of bacterial infections occur in people with diabetes:
Inflamed tissues are usually hot, swollen, red, and painful. Several different organisms can cause infections, the most common being Staphylococcus bacteria, also called staph.
Once, bacterial infections were life threatening, especially for people with diabetes. Today, death is rare, thanks to antibiotics and better methods of blood sugar control.
But even today, people with diabetes have more bacterial infections than other people do. Doctors believe people with diabetes can reduce their chances of these infections by practicing good skin care.
If you think you have a bacterial infection, see your doctor.
The culprit in fungal infections of people with diabetes is often Candida albicans. This yeast-like fungus can create itchy rashes of moist, red areas surrounded by tiny blisters and scales. These infections often occur in warm, moist folds of the skin. Problem areas are under the breasts, around the nails, between fingers and toes, in the corners of the mouth, under the foreskin (in uncircumcised men), and in the armpits and groin.
Common fungal infections include jock itch, athlete’s foot, ringworm (a ring-shaped itchy patch), and vaginal infection that causes itching.
If you think you have a yeast or fungal infection, call your doctor.
Localized itching is often caused by diabetes. It can be caused by a yeast infection, dry skin, or poor circulation. When poor circulation is the cause of itching, the itchiest areas may be the lower parts of the legs.
You may be able to treat itching yourself. Limit how often you bathe, particularly when the humidity is low. Use mild soap with moisturizer and apply skin cream after bathing.
Acanthosis nigricans is a condition in which tan or brown raised areas appear on the sides of the neck, armpits and groin. Sometimes they also occur on the hands, elbows and knees.
Acanthosis nigricans usually strikes people who are very overweight. The best treatment is to lose weight. Some creams can help the spots look better.
Diabetes can cause changes in the small blood vessels. These changes can cause skin problems called diabetic dermopathy.
Dermopathy often looks like light brown, scaly patches. These patches may be oval or circular. Some people mistake them for age spots. This disorder most often occurs on the front of both legs. But the legs may not be affected to the same degree. The patches do not hurt, open up, or itch.
Dermopathy is harmless and doesn’t need to be treated.
Another disease that may be caused by changes in the blood vessels is necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum (NLD). NLD causes spots similar to diabetic dermopathy, but they are fewer, larger, and deeper.
NLD often starts as a dull, red, raised area. After a while, it looks like a shiny scar with a violet border. The blood vessels under the skin may become easier to see. Sometimes NLD is itchy and painful. Sometimes the spots crack open.
NLD is a rare condition. Adult women are the most likely to get it. As long as the sores do not break open, you do not need to have it treated. But if you get open sores, see your doctor for treatment.
Allergic skin reactions can occur in response to medicines, such as insulin or diabetes pills. You should see your doctor if you think you are having a reaction to a medicine. Be on the lookout for rashes, depressions, or bumps at the sites where you inject insulin.
Diabetic blisters (bullosis diabeticorum)
Rarely, people with diabetes erupt in blisters. Diabetic blisters can occur on the backs of fingers, hands, toes, feet and sometimes on legs or forearms. These sores look like burn blisters and often occur in people who have diabetic neuropathy. They are sometimes large, but they are painless and have no redness around them. They heal by themselves, usually without scars, in about three weeks. The only treatment is to bring blood sugar levels under control.
Eruptive xanthomatosis is another condition caused by diabetes that’s out of control. It consists of firm, yellow, pea-like enlargements in the skin. Each bump has a red halo and may itch. This condition occurs most often on the backs of hands, feet, arms, legs and buttocks.
The disorder usually occurs in young men with type 1 diabetes. The person often has high levels of cholesterol and fat in the blood. Like diabetic blisters, these bumps disappear when diabetes control is restored.
Sometimes, people with diabetes develop tight, thick, waxy skin on the backs of their hands. Sometimes skin on the toes and forehead also becomes thick. The finger joints become stiff and can no longer move the way they should. Rarely, knees, ankles, or elbows also get stiff.
This condition happens to about one third of people who have type 1 diabetes. The only treatment is to bring blood sugar levels under control.
In disseminated granuloma annulare, the person has sharply defined ring- or arc-shaped raised areas on the skin. These rashes occur most often on parts of the body far from the trunk (for example, the fingers or ears). But sometimes the raised areas occur on the trunk. They can be red, red-brown, or skin-colored.
See your doctor if you get rashes like this. There are drugs that can help clear up this condition.
Good skin care
There are several things you can do to prevent skin problems:
Is Diabetes Causing Itching?
Q5. What is the best way to treat diabetic ulcers on the legs? I have new ones every day and it’s hard to decide if they should be bandaged or not. They are always seeping. Please send some advice.
— Ma, Pennsylvania
Leg ulcers can indeed be difficult and frustrating to treat, and they usually take a long time to heal. And because treatment recommendations have changed over the years, it’s confusing to decide what to do. Unfortunately, the treatment of leg ulcers is not simple. Specific therapy depends on the cause, size and depth, location and duration of the ulcer. That’s why I can’t give one answer to your question. What I can do is provide you with the principles of ulcer care and suggest that you work with your doctor to develop the best treatment plan for your specific situation.
First, let me emphasize that when and how you dress an ulcer is important, but it’s less crucial than keeping your blood sugar under good control, making sure there is adequate circulation in your legs, and removing dead tissue from the wound. These steps not only provide the necessary environment for healing existing ulcers but also go a long way toward preventing new ones.
The purpose of dressing an ulcer is to aid the body’s healing process. Ideally, the dressing you use will serve the following functions:
If the ulcer is seeping, the dressing must absorb the excess fluid while maintaining a moist environment to facilitate healing. For dry ulcers, the dressing should provide a moist environment. Bandaging (pressure) helps to remove debris and accelerates healing. Once again, your best bet is to see your own doctor to develop a plan that’s right for you.
Learn more in the Everyday Health Type 2 Diabetes Center.
Diabetes can affect your skin in itchy ways. It can change your nervous system to sense itching you otherwise wouldn’t. How does this happen, and what can you do about it?
Itching should not be ignored. It can lead to excessive scratching, which can cause discomfort, pain, and infection.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the higher-than-normal blood sugar levels common in diabetes promote skin infections. The causes can be ordinary fungi, yeast, or bacterial rashes like anyone can get. Some other skin diseases only happen to people with diabetes or happen mostly to people with diabetes. These tend to have long names such as diabetic dermopathy and eruptive xanthomatosis.
WebMD says as many as one out of three people with diabetes will have some kind of skin condition. Diabetes increases skin dryness and damages circulation. “Localized itching can be caused by a yeast infection, dry skin, or poor circulation,” says WebMD. “When itching is caused by poor blood flow, you’ll likely feel it in your lower legs and feet.”
Diabetes can itch more than your skin. Diabetes.co.uk highlights genital yeast infections as a major problem in diabetes. This is because high glucose levels “provide ideal conditions for naturally present yeast to grow and diminishes the body’s ability to fight infection.” Diabetes can also deposit glucose in the urine, helping yeast to grow.
Other causes of genital itching include lice, scabies, herpes, various skin diseases, chemical irritants, and allergies. These can affect anyone, but may be felt more strongly in people with diabetes.
According to an article on Everyday Health, “diabetes affects the nervous system and alters the perception of sensation in the body.”
A piece by Rachel Nall, RN, BSN, CCRN, on Medical News Today reports, “A study of nearly 7,200 people with diabetes and 499 without diabetes found that itching was a common diabetes symptom. An estimated 11.3% of those with diabetes reported skin itching versus 2.9% of people without diabetes.”
The cause of increased diabetes itching may be nerve damage, or neuropathy. In neuropathy, writes Nall, “the body experiences high levels of cytokines. These are inflammatory substances that can lead to a person’s skin itching.”
What to do about itching?
In many cases, itching can be reduced by reducing blood sugar levels. If you itch when your sugar levels are high, it’s like an extra warning sign that others don’t have. Use it and see how you can modify diet or behavior to lower glucose levels, reduce inflammation, and stop the itching.
Itching can also be treated. The ADA suggests, “Limit how often you bathe, particularly when the humidity is low. Use mild soap with moisturizer and apply skin cream after bathing.”
WebMD suggests using lotion to keep your skin soft and moist. There are also home remedies such as a paste of oatmeal and water, or aloe vera gel.
Some people can reduce localized itching by meditation. Breathe in and out a few times to relax, then focus on the itchy place and breathe into it. Pay attention to it, and you may find the itch goes away. Works for me, sometimes.
When to see a doctor
If your breathing is affected, if itching goes on more than a week or if it doesn’t go away when your sugars are down, or if you have a rash that you haven’t seen before, consider seeing a dermatologist. Make sure to tell the doctor or nurse practitioner you have diabetes.
Want to learn more about diabetes and skin care? Read “Diabetes and Your Skin: Protecting Your Outermost Layer” and take our quiz, “How Much Do You Know About Skin Care?”
Skin Conditions and Diabetes: What You Need to Know
Written by Bonnie Sanders Polin, PhD 9
Everyone knows about the major long- and short-term complications of diabetes. But what many newly-diagnosed patients might not realize, is that skin conditions often come with having diabetes.
My first exposure to skin conditions was a fungal infection. I can remember saying to the trainer that I could not have a fungal infection because my A1c was 6%. A specific over-the-counter anti-fungal ointment stopped the fungal infection process, and now I travel with this small tube just in case. I use it in the summer when I’m in the water and I develop itchy skin on my upper shoulder always in the same place. It’s gone, and I’m happy.
People with diabetes are more prone to allergic-type skin conditions.First, we want you to know that people who do not have diabetes get these skin conditions also, but as with many other complications, we tend to get them more often. About one-third of people with diabetes will have a skin disorder caused or affected by diabetes at some time. In fact, doctors report noting the presence of skin disorders before they diagnose diabetes.
Second, if you think you have one of the skin conditions outlined in this article, please see your physician right away. Don’t wait.
Finally, we end this article with some easy ways to protect your skin when you have diabetes (either type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes).
Skin Conditions that Can Affect People with Diabetes
Bacterial Infections: People with diabetes appear to suffer more bacterial infections than the general population.
There are several kinds of infections that can affect those of us with diabetes.
We all know bacterial infections. The infected tissue feels hot, and is usually swollen, red, and painful. The most common cause of bacterial infections is staph (Staphylococcus). We can all remember grandparents talking about how dangerous these infections were when they were children, but now they can be treated with antibiotics, either a cream or pill prescribed by your physician.
Fungal Infections: Canidida albicans, a yeast-like fungus, is responsible for many of the bothersome fungal infections that people with diabetes get. It causes itchy rashes and red areas on the skin with tiny blisters and scales.
Yeast infections occur in warm moist folds of the skin. Some common infections are jock itch, athlete’s foot, and ring worm. All of these need to be treated by medication. See your physician.
Itching: Itching can be caused by a yeast infection, dry skin, or poor blood flow.
When caused by poor circulation, it is prevalent in the legs. Using skin lotions can help your skin to remain soft and prevent this type of itching. Ask your health care team for the names of lotions they know will work.
Allergic Reactions: You can have an allergic reaction to some medications, even to your insulin or anti-hyperglycemic pills, as well to insect bites, and food.
As someone who has an allergic reaction to bee and wasp bites, I know how quickly I need medication. Do see your doctor if you think you are having an allergic reaction to something in your environment.
Atherosclerosis: We have shared many times that people with diabetes share a high risk for developing thickening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. We all have read how this affects the vessels that cause cardiovascular disease, but it can also affect vessels that supply blood to the skin.
As this occurs, the skin changes and becomes hairless, thin and shiny. Your toes may feel cold and toenails thicken. Your calves may be painful during exercise because less oxygen is available.
Because blood carries white blood cells which fight infection, legs and feet affected will heal slowly.
People with diabetic neuropathy are most likely to have foot injuries because these people do not feel pain, cold, heat, or pressure. The wound can then go untreated and infections can develop.
The reduction of blood flow can cause the infection to become severe. Do see your physician for this one.
Acanthosis Nigricans: This condition causes thickening and darkening of the skin that occurs in skin folds (such as the neck, armpits, and/or groin). Acanthosis nigricans is usually a sign of insulin resistance and most common in prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.
Diabetic Blisters (bullosis diabeticorum): These blisters are rare and resemble burn blisters.
They usually appear on the fingers, hands, toes, feet, or forearms. They tend to be painless and heal on their own. They will heal faster if you get your blood glucose levels in the normal range. They are thought to be caused by diabetic neuropathy.
Diabetic Dermopathy: This is caused by changes in small blood vessels, and it looks like light brown, scaly patches. It is often seen on the front of the legs and may be mistaken for age spots. They are harmless and don’t need treatment.
Digital Sclerosis: This is another condition that can be treated by getting blood glucose levels back to a normal levels and keeping them there.
It makes the skin on toes, fingers, and hands thicken and become waxy and tight. You fingers may become stiff. It is rarer for this stiffness to affect knees, ankles, or elbows.
Disseminated Granuloma Annulare: This is a mouthful of a skin condition which usually does not need treatment but can become serious enough to warrant a trip to your physician and steroid medication to clear up the sharply defined ring-shaped or arc-shaped raised area on the skin.
It appears on fingers and ears and more rarely on the trunk. The rash is usually red, red-brown or skin colored.
Eruptive Xanthomatosis: This is another diagnosis that means strict control of blood glucose levels is needed. Sometimes lipid-lowering medications are also needed. It consists of firm yellow pea-like enlargements in the skin. Each bump has a red halo and may itch.
It occurs most often on the back of hand, feet, arms, legs, and rear end.
Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticorum: This is another disease caused by changes in the blood vessels and is similar to diabetic dermopathy. The difference is that the spots are fewer, but larger and deeper. It generally affects the lower legs.
The skin becomes raised, yellow, and waxy in appearance often with a purple border. It is a rare condition and, as long as the sores do not open, it does not need treatment.
If, however, they do break open, see your physician.
Scleroderma Diabeticorum: This is a rare condition which, like digital sclerosis, causes thickening of the skin, but it affects the skin on the back of the neck and upper back. It is treated by bringing blood glucose levels under control. The use of lotions may help keep the skin soft.
Vitiligo: This condition affects the coloration of skin. The cells that make pigment are destroyed, resulting in patches of discolored skin. There is no specific treatment for this condition, but using a sun screen is suggested.
Skin Condition Treatments: Blood Glucose Control Helps
There are ways to control skin conditions that we share readily with you.
Keep your diabetes under control. As you read about these conditions, you could not but notice how important that is. High blood glucose levels tend to cause dry skin and less of an ability to fend off bacteria. Infection can follow.
Updated on: December 8, 2015 View Sources Continue Reading How to Treat Diabetic Neuropathy
Early Symptoms of Diabetes
Types of diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease where the pancreas stops producing insulin—a hormone that allows the body to get energy from food. Its onset has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle.
With type 2 diabetes your body doesn’t use insulin properly—which is known as insulin resistance. As a result, your pancreas makes extra insulin to compensate, but over time it is unable to keep up.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
T1D is identified in children and adults as they show signs of the following symptoms:
Although the signs of diabetes can begin to show early, sometimes it takes a person a while to recognize the symptoms. This often makes it seem like signs and symptoms of diabetes appear suddenly. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your body, rather than simply brushing them off. To that end, here are some type 1 and type 2 diabetes symptoms that you may want to watch out for:
If you’re experiencing frequent urination your body might be telling you that your kidneys are trying to expel excess sugar in your blood. The resulting dehydration may then cause extreme thirst.
Along the same lines, the lack of available fluids may also give you dry mouth and itchy skin.
If you experience increased hunger or unexpected weight loss it could be because your body isn’t able to get adequate energy from the food you eat.
High blood sugar levels can affect blood flow and cause nerve damage, which makes healing difficult. So having slow-healing cuts/sores is also a potential sign of diabetes.
Yeast infections may occur in men and women who have diabetes as a result of yeast feeding on glucose.
Other signs of diabetes
Pay attention if you find yourself feeling drowsy or lethargic; pain or numbness in your extremities; vision changes; fruity or sweet-smelling breath which is one of the symptoms of high ketones; and experiencing nausea or vomiting—as these are additional signs that something is not right. If there’s any question, see your doctor immediately to ensure that your blood sugar levels are safe and rule out diabetes.