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Skin complications in diabetes

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According to American Diabetes Association, “almost one third of all diabetics experience skin-related problems.” So, it’s important for a diabetic to be aware of the potential skin problems that he/she can get affected with.

Why skin complications occur in diabetics?

Presence of high blood glucose for a long term, poorly controlled blood sugar, abnormal weight gain, and side effects of medications can bring about the following changes in the body, which leads to skin complications. They are:

  • Reduction of blood flow to skin and potential risk of blood vessel damage
  • Damage to skin collagen and external texture
  • Reduction of sweat from skin
  • Sensitivity to change in temperature and environment

Types of skin complications in diabetes

Bacterial infections

People with type 2 diabetes are highly susceptible to bacterial infections which can occur as infection of the underlying skin tissue- carbuncles. Boils on skin, infected nails and hair follicles and styes occur in eyelids.

Fungal infections

Candida albicans is the fungus that causes most of the skin infections that usually appear in moist folds of the skin like ridges between fingers, corners of thighs, around nails, toes, beneath breasts and corners of the mouth. It could be ringworm, athlete’s foot, jock itch and vaginal infections.

Acanthosis Nigricans

It is characterized by darkening and thickening of skin areas, especially on the side of neck, groin and armpits. The raised part of the skin resembles warts. It usually occurs in people who are diabetic and overweight.

Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticorum

Changes in blood vessels give rise to dull, red and raised area over the skin. The blood vessels under the skin become apparent and the raised portion becomes shiny. NLD is painful and affects mostly women.

Diabetic Dermopathy

The skin turns scaly and patchy, especially that of the legs. The round patches cause great deal of itching and they can open up.

 Diabetic scleroderma

This skin disease occurs in people with type 2 diabetes wherein the skin on the back of neck and upper back thickens.


It’s an autoimmune condition, wherein the skin disease occurs when the body attacks the pigment producing cells of the skin, resulting in de-pigmentation and formation of white patches over the skin.

Digital sclerosis

The skin precisely on the fingers, hands, forehead and toes becomes taut, thick and waxy. Subsequently stiffness is experienced in the joints of the fingers.

Eruptive xanthomatosis

It occurs due to poorly managed blood glucose levels. Waxy yellow pea-like bumps appear on the skin, especially around the buttocks due to increased triglyceride levels in the blood.

Bullosis diabeticorum

Also known as diabetic blisters, they look like burns over fingers, hands, toes and feet. They are most likely to occur in people with diabetes neuropathy along with diabetes.

Can skin problems be prevented in diabetes?

The only way to prevent skin problems in diabetes is to control rise of blood glucose. Apart from this, you need to follow your doctor’s advice in terms of nutrition, diet and exercise and take good care of your skin. Chances of having skin disease are greatly reduced when you follow these.

Home care to prevent skin complications in diabetes

  • Keep your skin clean and dry. Wipe off moisture and apply talcum powder whenever needed
  • Moisture your skin after drying so avoid tautness
  • Do scratch your skin if you have developed rashes or wounds. Check with your doctor
  • Avoid exposing your skin to hot water and other heat treatments

Last but not the least; do not neglect any kind of abnormal change in skin. It’s important to get the skin complications treated.

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Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: January 27, 2015

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