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Diabetes-Related Skincare Problems

Posted September 2020 by Biodermis
Diabetes can cause a wide-range of problems for the body, including complications with the skin. In fact, in some cases, skin issues are often the first sign that a person has diabetes. Some of these problems are ones that anyone can have, but diabetes can increase the risk. Luckily, most of these conditions can be treated if caught early on. Other problems that can be a little more serious are most common in people with diabetes. These include diabetic dermopathy, necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum and diabetic blisters, among others.

In this article we will go over some of the more common skin health issues related to diabetes and when you should see a doctor.

Skin changes related to diabetes

General skin conditions related to diabetes

Bacterial infections
Anyone can get a bacterial infection, but having diabetes increases the risk. The following bacterial infections are related to the skin:

• Boils (painful, pus-filled bump under the skin)
• Carbuncles (a cluster of boils under the skin)
• Folliculitis (infection and inflammation the hair follicles)
• Styes (pus-filled bump around eyelids)
• Infections around or underneath the nails

Skin infections can be detected by their symptoms. They are usually swollen, red, and painful to the touch. Skin infections are caused by common bacteria that live on our skin, one of the most common being Staphylococcus (also known as staph).

In the past, bacterial infections were life-threatening because health-care at the time was scarce and antibiotics had not yet been discovered. Nowadays, most bacterial infections can be treated with a course of antibiotics in pill or ointment form. Other ways to reduce the risk of bacterial infections in people with diabetes is to control blood sugar. Thanks to modern medicine, treatment is more efficient and readily available.

Fungal infections
Fungal infections of the skin are similar to bacterial infections, but they are caused by a fungus rather than bacteria. The primary culprit of most fungal infections of the skin is a fungus called Candida albicans. Similar to a yeast infection, this fungus can cause itchy rashes, redness, tiny blisters, and scales on surface of the skin. Generally, such an infection can be found in moist areas of the skin, such as the armpits, thighs, under the breasts, and around the groin.

Common fungal infections are known colloquially as jock itch, athlete’s foot, ringworm, and yeast infections. Minor fungal infections can often be treated with over-the-counter creams. If these do not work, see your doctor for a prescription.

Diabetes-related skin conditions

Ancanthosis nigricans
Ancanthosis nigricans is a skin condition marked by tan or brown raised areas that form on the sides of the neck, armpits, groin, hands, elbows and knees. People who are severely overweight are most at risk for developing this skin condition. The best way to get rid of these spots is to lose weight and to use prescription creams to help them fade.

Diabetic dermopathy
Diabetes can cause changes in our blood vessels. These changes are then responsible for a skin condition known as diabetic dermopathy. This condition is characterized by light brown, scaly patches that can be oval or circular in shape. They are commonly mistaken for age spots and most commonly occur on the front of both legs. There are no symptoms that come along with diabetic dermopathy other than a change in skin color, so they do not require treatment.

Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum
NLD for short, this condition is similar to diabetic dermopathy in that it is reaction to changes in blood vessels. NLD is a bit more severe as the spots are larger and deeper. This condition can be identified as dull, red, raised areas. Over time, these spots start to look like a shiny scar with a purple border. Sometimes, the blood vessels under the spot can be visible. NLD can be itchy and painful, and in severe cases the spots can crack open and bleed. NLD is rare and mostly affects women. Treatment is not necessary unless the spots crack open.

Good skin care

This list does not exhaust all of the possible skin conditions a person with diabetes may experience. Luckily, there are skin care steps that you can take to reduce the risk of some of these problems. They include:

• Use moisturizers. People with diabetes tend to have dry skin due to abnormal glucose levels. Dry skin is less capable of fending off harmful bacteria.
• Clean your skin and keep good hygiene
• Make sure your baths and showers aren’t too hot. Hot water can further dry out the skin.
• Do not itch or scratchy at your dry skin. This can damage the epidermis and lead to skin infection.
• Treat cuts right away so they do not get infected.
• Use a humidifier indoors so that your environment doesn’t dry out your skin.
• Use mild shampoos and gentle body washes.


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