When it comes to diabetes, one of the biggest concerns that people bring up is the fear of amputation. While not exactly common, unmanaged diabetes can result in the loss of a limb, most often the foot (around 80%). These amputations almost always start off with a dermatological ulcer, or a raw, crater-like sore on the skin. When treated early, it is possible to put a stop to the process that ultimately ends in an amputation. That’s why it is important to be aware of how diabetes may affect your skin and what can be done about it.
Why Does Diabetes Affect Our Skin?
According to the American Diabetes Association, “Diabetes can affect every part of the body, including the skin. In fact, such problems are sometimes the first sign that a person has diabetes.” This is because diabetes can make people more susceptible to common skin conditions. Additionally, there are some skin issues that largely only develop in people with diabetes. Many of these issues are related to weight, while some are directly affected by blood sugar levels.
General skin conditions, such as bacterial infection, fungal infection, and itching, can occur more readily in people with diabetes. Of the three, itching is the least severe, and can be attributed to poor blood circulation or dry skin. Bacterial infections often appear as a collection of red, inflamed bumps. They can be painful, but are usually treatable through the use of antibiotics from a medical professional. Fungal infections include things like ringworm, yeast infections, and athlete’s foot. Medical intervention should be sought in the case of a suspected fungal infection as well.
There are several skin problems that are a direct result of diabetes, and treatment typically consists of getting blood sugar levels to their proper range.
· Diabetic Dermopathy is a harmless phenomenon in which light brown, scaly patches appear on the front of the legs. They do not open up or itch, and aren’t associated with any pain. As they are harmless, medical intervention isn’t (other than controlling the diabetes) necessary, but there are some lotions that may help with the appearance.
· Acanthosis Nigricans is a condition that typically occurs in overweight people, and is characterized by brown, slightly raised areas near the neck, armpits, and groin. Treatment consists of weight loss and lightening creams for the spots.
· Disseminated Granuloma Annulare looks a little like Acanthosis Nigricans, in that you may develop defined, ring-shaped bumps that are red or reddish brown in color. These generally appear on the extremities of the body, such as on the fingers. Medical intervention is usually required in this case, as there are drugs that can resolve this issue.
· Allergic skin reactions can happen as a result of taking diabetes pills or insulin. It is generally seen as rashes or bumps that can also be near the insulin injection site, and it is very important to speak to a doctor concerning allergic reactions to avoid more complicated issues.
· Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticorum is similar to diabetic dermopathy, except the dark patches are larger and deeper in the skin. The blood vessels under the patch become easier to see, and the spots may crack open. If this occurs, it is important to seek medical attention, as these sores are particularly susceptible to infection.
Blood Sugar Dependent Skin Conditions
As stated previously, there are some diabetes-related skin conditions that occur when blood sugar isn’t maintained within the proper ranges. The best treatment for the following conditions is controlling blood sugar levels.
· Diabetic Blisters can sometimes, although rarely, appear on the back of the hands, feet, legs, and forearms. They are similar in appearance to burn blisters and are sometimes seen with diabetic neuropathy. Once they develop, they usually heal on their own if blood sugar levels are lowered and regulated.
· Eruptive Xanthomatosis is characterized by the growth of firm, pea-sized bumps in the skin that are yellowish in color. They generally appear in the same areas diabetic blisters would, and can affect the buttocks as well. They tend to occur more frequently in young men with type 1 diabetes, as well as those with high cholesterol.
· Digital Sclerosis affects about 1/3 of people with type-1 diabetes. The skin on the back of the hands (and sometimes toes or forehead) becomes tight, thick, and waxy, and can sometimes make it difficult or impossible to move the finger joints.
Are you concerned about your blood sugar levels? Do you need help with your diabetes management? Don’t wait—Healthpointe is here to help. Make an appointment here or call us at (888) 824-5580 to schedule some time with a medical professional.