How Type 2 Diabetes Can Affect The Skin

diabetesType 2 diabetes affects many organs in the body. The skin is one of the largest organs in the body. There are several skin conditions that can happen just because of diabetes. For the most part very few of these skin conditions are life threatening. More importantly, a lot of these conditions may show up when the blood sugars are not well controlled.

These skin conditions can be very frustrating, especially for women living with diabetes. By knowing about these conditions will allow you to become a more vigilant. It also helps to hasten healing if you should get any one of these.

Acanthosis Nigricans

This skin condition gives the skin the appearance of soft velvety wart like growth. It is usually seen at the back of the neck, the armpits, beneath the breasts, the flexure surface of the elbow.

It is typically seen in those who are  overweight or obese.

There are other conditions that can cause this skin condition, but usually acanthosis nigricans is a warning sign of  insulin resistance. Insulin resistance can eventually lead to diabetes.

I take the time to point this out to my patients. Especially patients who do not have diabetes. This is a great time to start making lifestyle changes.

Scleroderma diabeticorum

This is a skin condition that causes the skin of the back and the upper neck to become very thick.

The treatment for this is to get the blood sugars well controlled.

Lotions can be applied that will help to soften the skin.

Vitiligo

In vitiligo, the skin loses it’s pigment and causes white patches. Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease. Vitiligo is more common in type 1 diabetes. It is very important to use a sunscreen, to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer.

Vitiligo is treated with skin lightening creams to try to even out the appearance. Some people even attempt to tattoo back in pigment into the white areas.

Eruptive Xanthomatosis

These are lumpy yellow deposits of fat beneath the skin. It is usually an indication that cholesterol and triglyceride levels are high.

Once blood sugars and the cholesterol are better controlled then these may disappear.

Digital Sclerosis

Tight waxy skin on the back of hands, the toes and also the forehead. This condition happens more commonly in people with type 1 diabetes and can cause the hands to become stiff.

Just as in most of the other skin conditions we have discussed thus far, the treatment is to normalize the blood sugars.

Disseminated Granuloma Annulare

Raised oval patches that are either skin colored or red or brown. They usually occur on parts of the body away from the trunk such as the legs or the ears.

In addition to controlling the blood sugars, there are several ways to treat this condition. So please be sure to see your healthcare provider.

Diabetic Blisters (Bullosis Diabeticorum)

These blisters may be large but are usually large and look like burns. They are not painful. They can occur on the fingers, feet, and hands and even sometimes on the forearms.

The treatment is to get the blood sugars within control. They heal by themselves within a few weeks. It’s important to keep them clean.

Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum

This is caused by fat and collagen accumulating beneath the skin. Most times these lesions happen on the legs. The overlying skin then gets thin and can break down easily especially when exposed to injury. It can also get itchy.

It is important to see your primary care physician especially if the lesions break open as it may take a longer time to heal.

Allergic reactions

Allergic reactions that can cause rashes and bumps can also occur in type 2 diabetes. It is even possible to develop an allergic reaction to a particular type of insulin. So be very observant and if this happens inform your physician.

Bacterial infections

These can happen especially when blood sugars are not well controlled. The common culprit is staphylococcus aureus. This can cause boils, folliculitis or impetigo. There is a particular strain of Staphylococcus called MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus).

It is very important to treat MRSA early and promptly. So be sure to bring any boils to the attention of your physician.

Fungal Infections

These are usually caused by candida (yeast) organisms. Women with borderline or full-blown diabetes may also be at risk of vaginal candidiasis. Fungi can affect various body parts. For instance between the toes it can cause athlete’s foot. It is very important to make sure that the webs between the toes are kept dry to prevent athlete’s foot, as this could become an entry point for bacterial infections. Fungi can also infect the toenails causing the nails to become dark and discolored. This is called onychomycosis. In the groin it can cause a jock itch.

There is a potentially fatal fungal infection that is very common in diabetes called Mucormycosis. This fungus invades the nasal passage and then can spread to the eye and brain.

If you have a ‘sinus infection’ that does not seem to be getting better, especially associated with eye pain, and fever should be evaluated immediately by a physician.

It is important to get evaluated and treated for these skin conditions. Your healthcare provider may refer you to a dermatologist. This is a doctor who specializes in skin diseases.

As you can see from this article, in addition to treating these skin diseases, it is also important to get the sugars under good control.

As with any other complication associated with diabetes, I like to emphasize the importance of prevention rather than treatment.

You may be experiencing difficulty getting your blood sugars under control. Do not despair. It starts with your mindset. You have control over how you choose to live with a chronic illness.

To learn more about this click here to download a free copy of the first three chapters of my upcoming book.

Be persistent. Stay the course.

To your Health and Wellbeing,