Skin Conditions Triggered by Diabetes: Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

There are some skin problems that occur primarily or only to individuals with diabetes. The names of these conditions make them sound more dire than they are—most are treated without medication.

Allergic reactions to diabetes pills or insulin can also cause skin conditions such as bumps or depressions at insulin injection sites, and rashes. Let your doctor know about any skin issues that develop.

Skin Conditions Associated With Diabetes

Acanthosis Nigricans is a condition that typically affects people who are extremely overweight. It appears as brown or tan raised areas at the sides of the neck, armpits, or groin. Occasionally it forms on the knees, elbows, and hands. Although there are creams that can improve the spots’ appearance, losing weight is the best treatment.

Diabetic Blisters, or bullosis diabeticorum, is a rare condition where blisters erupt on the backs of feet, toes, hands, fingers, and less often on the forearms or legs. The blisters can be large and though they look like burn blisters there is no redness or pain. Healing occurs, without scarring, in roughly three weeks. Diabetic blisters usually affect those with diabetic neuropathy, and the sole treatment is keeping blood glucose levels under control.

Diabetic Dermopathy develops as light brown scaly splotches, either circular or oval. The cause is likely changes in the small blood vessels. People frequently assume dermopathy patches are age spots, and like age spots they are harmless. The condition typically develops on the front of people’s legs, and one leg can be more affected than the other. The painless spots do not open-up or itch; no treatment is necessary.

Digital Sclerosis occurs in about a third of those with type 1 diabetes. The only treatment option is good blood sugar control. Digital sclerosis is characterized by the formation of thick, tight, waxy skin on the backs of hands; occasionally on the toes and forehead as well. Finger joints may stiffen, losing their usual mobility. Ankle, knee, and elbow joints may also become stiff, but this is rare.

Disseminated Granuloma Annulare appears as well defined arcs or ring shaped areas on the skin. They might be skin-colored, red, or reddish-brown, and usually form on body parts distant from the trunk (e.g., fingers, ears)—but can occur on the trunk as well. There are prescription drugs available for this condition.

Eruptive Xanthomatosis occurs most often in young males with type 1 diabetes who have elevated cholesterol and fat in their bloodstream. It develops when blood sugar is out of control, and disappears when control is regained. Eruptive xanthomatosis develops as hard, itchy, yellow pea-like skin bumps with red halos, usually on the backs of hands, arms, legs, feet, and buttocks.

Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticorm is a rare condition that adult females are more likely to get. It may be triggered by changes in the blood vessels. The spots typically begin as red, dull raised areas that later appear as shiny light brown scars bordered in violet. These patches may be painful and itchy, but only require treatment if they break open.

The best prevention for all these skin problems is naturally a healthy diet, exercise, regular blood sugar monitoring, and medication compliance.

Source: American Diabetes Association
Photo credit: Mats Lindh - flickr

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