Seven Skin Complications of Diabetes

Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, it’s important to be aware of some of the common skin conditions that can develop in response to the disease. While some of these skin issues can develop in anyone, they are more likely to appear in diabetics and can sometimes be more serious. Meanwhile, other skin troubles appear exclusively in diabetics and can even be one of the first symptoms of the condition.

1. Acanthosis nigricans

Acanthosis nigricans causes raised bumps on the skin, most commonly on the neck or around the groin. These patches tend to be brown, and they can be quite noticeable. Your doctor may be able to offer a cream that reduces the appearance of the spots, and you can reduce your risk of developing them by maintaining a healthy weight.

2. Bacterial infections

While most people develop a bacterial infection of the skin at some point, many of the most common infections are particularly common in diabetics. In particular, diabetes is associated with eyelid gland infections, hair follicle infections, boils, carbuncles and nail infections. While you can cut your chances of developing any of these infections by being particularly vigilant about skincare and hygiene, you should look out for the key signs of infection regardless. If an area is infection, it will typically be hot to the touch, visibly swollen, reddened and sore. Diabetics who suspect they have a bacterial skin infection should always see their doctor to discuss antibiotic treatment.

3. Dermopathy

Diabetes can cause a specific form of dermopathy that results from damage to the tiny blood vessels of the skin. Typically appearing in the form of pale brown scales, dermopathy often strikes the legs. This skin condition isn’t painful, itchy or dangerous, and the patches are not usually easily spotted by the untrained eye.

4. Eruptive Xanthomatosis

Generally seen in people with poorly controlled type 1 diabetes, this skin problem leads to yellow skin lumps that are itchy and hard to the touch. These lumps tend to appear on the limbs, extremities and buttocks, but they should recede once diabetes is appropriately treated.

5. Fungal infections

Diabetics are prone to yeast infections that cause itching, redness and a change in skin texture. Women may struggle with recurrent episodes of vaginal thrush, and athlete’s foot is common in both sexes. Fungal infections can also develop around the nails and in the warm skin beneath the breasts. Once again, it is important to report fungal infections to your doctor, as they are usually fairly easy to treat with drugs or topical creams.

6. Itching

While itching is rarely serious, it can be very annoying for some diabetics. Other than fungal infections, the most common causes are sluggish circulation and a lack of moisture on the skin. If circulation is the issue, you may find that you are itchiest from the knees down. To deal with itching, make sure you use unperfumed bathing products and apply soothing cream after you take a bath or shower. If the itching becomes unbearable or doesn’t respond to home treatments, talk to your doctor about prescription creams.

7. Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum (NLD)

Like many complications of diabetes, NLD is a skin problem that results from blood vessel damage. NLD causes a patch of skin that looks red and shiny, and the patch may have purpled edges. Sufferers can experience itching and pain, and if the sores open up then there is also a risk of infection. Although diabetics should be mindful of NLD, it is worth noting that it is a relatively uncommon issue.

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