Are You suffering from Diabetic Skin Conditions

In a recent group chat I was alerted that some pigmentation patterns is a sign of pre-diabetes which made me do some research on Diabetic Skin Conditions. With about a third of people with diabetes will develop skin problems, it is very important to be able to identify the skin conditions and what treatment is required to reduce or cure them. The best news is that most skin conditions can be treated easily especially if they are identified early and the blood sugar glucose is well controlled. Some diabetic skin problems can be the first warning signs of the onset of diabetes.  In this blog we look at the various diabetic skin conditions and what people suffering diabetes should do in addition to controlling their blood sugar glucose.

Diabetic Skin Conditions and Problems

Acanthosis Nigricans can be a warning sign of diabetes. The skin in body folds and creases to become dark, thick, and velvety. One study found that acanthosis nigricans appears more often in people of African, Caribbean, or Hispanic descent. All ethnic groups are equally at risk of acanthosis nigricans when body mass index (BMI) is well above normal. The most effective treatments focus on finding and resolving medical conditions at the root of the problem. These skin patches tend to disappear after successfully treating the root condition.

Diabetic Dermopathy which is caused by changes in the small blood vessels that are affected by diabeties. These changes can cause skin to look like light brown, scaly, oval or circular patches. These patches can be mistaken as age spots. This disorder most often occurs on the front of both legs. The patches do not hurt, open up, or itch and is harmless and doesn’t need special treatments.

Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticorum is a rare condition and this is another disease that may be caused by changes in the blood vessels which causes spots similar to Diabetic Dermopathy, but they are fewer, larger, and deeper with adult women are the most likely to get it. This condition often starts as a dull, red, raised area and  develops into a shiny scar with a violet border. Unlike Diabetic Dermopathy the blood vessels under the skin can become easier to see and can be itchy and painful. These spots can crack open. As long as the sores do not break open, you do not need to have it treated. But if you get open sores, see your doctor for treatment.

Neuropathy-Related Diabetic Skin Problems Diabetes can cause nerve damage called neuropathy, and the damage causes a loss of sensation in the feet. If the diabetic injures their foot or develops a blister, they might not be able to feel it. This can develop into an infection or ulcer that does not heal leading to the development of Gangrene (or gangrenous necrosis) leading to amputation of the limb.  Treatment – inspect feet every day and care for any injuries, cuts and blisters quickly with Antibacterial ointment.

Diabetic Blisters It’s rare,  the blisters occur on the backs of fingers, hands, toes, feet, and sometimes on the legs or forearms. They resemble burn blisters. They are usually painless and heal on their own in a few weeks if they do burst then use Antibacterial ointment plus keep blood glucose under control.

Eruptive Xanthomatosis  firm, yellow, pea-like skin growths with a red halo around them and may itch. They’re usually found on the backs of hands, feet, arms, and buttocks. This skin problem usually strikes out-of-control diabetes and young men with Type 1 diabetes that also have high cholesterol and very high triglycerides. Treatment is getting blood glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides levels down and the skin will start to heal itself.

Digital Sclerosis affects about 1/3 of Type 1 diabetes, it is a thick, tight, waxy skin that develops on the backs of the hands, with the finger joints stiffen and become difficult to move. It can also affects toes and forehead and in rare cases it can affect the knees, ankles, or elbows. Once again the treatment is simple and good control of the diabetes. The use of Moisturizer may help soften the skin.

Disseminated Granuloma Annulare This skin problem causes raised, bumpy, or ring-shaped spots, which are skin colored, red, or red-brown, which occurs on the fingers and ears. It can have a mild itch. Treatment is not necessary as it normally disappears on its own without leaving scars.

Vitiligo is a condition in which the skin cells that make melanin (brown pigmentation) are destroyed, leading to irregular, pale blotchy patches over the skin. Normal areas affected is on the hands, face, or chest.  There’s no cure, it can be treated with light therapy and/or topical steroids. The biggest thing and an everyday must do, is to wear a zinc based sunscreen of at least 30 SPF, as vitiligo skin has no natural sun protection and is very light sensitive plus burn easy.

Bacterial Infections Diabetics are more prone to bacterial infection and they will suffer more from eyelid styes, boils, nail infections, and carbuncles. Usually, the area around the infection will be hot, red, painful, and swollen. Seek medical professional advice and script for antibiotic creams or pills that will clear up the infection quickly. Prevention is the key with diligent hygiene.

Fungal Infections Diabetics are more susceptible to fungal infections, especially Candida Albicans. This fungal infection creates a red, itchy rash, frequently surrounded by small blisters and scales, that is usually found in warm, moist areas like armpits or between the toes. Other fungal infections to be cautious of is ringworm, jock itch, athlete’s foot, and vaginal yeast infections. Treatment is medication from the doctor and  prevention is the key with diligent hygiene.

Itching skin can have be causes by a yeast infection, dry skin, or poor circulation. Treatment is lowering and reducing the number of times you bath. Reduce the temperature of the water to less than 40C. Use mild soap and always moisturize after bathing. Use good moisturizing butters on the body and dry skin areas but avoid between your toes and where fungal growth is common.

With so many diabetic skin conditions to be aware of and to know how to reduce the occurrence of these condition is very important. With good diet, control of blood glucose and good skin care a diabetic can reduce the risk and damage that these skin conditions can do.

Read: Good Skin Care for Diabetes


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Debra Spence is a Qualified Medical Aesthetician, Cosmetic Scientist, Lecture and Author. Owned of an Australian National Award Winning Medi Spa. Now is concerntrating on Education of Skin and Skincare plus provideing advance treatments to her private patients. Plus developing Zen Dejour a Result Based Cosmeceutical Skincare Range and Dermal Solution Private Lable Professional Skincare.

QUESTION ABOUT YOUR SKIN? Make an Appointment Today or send me an email to

PERMISSION TO REPRINT: You may use this article in your print, blog, magazine or electronic newsletter. But in order to do so, you must include the following paragraph “Information courtesy from Debra Spence – Answering your skin problems with Science and Nature. Debra Spence is a Cosmetic Chemist and Skin Specialist who provides skincare and treatment tips, product recommendations and reviews to professionals and patients.” Content Copyright © 2017, Debra Spence

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