At least one third of people with Type 2 diabetes have a skin condition or disorder of some kind. Skin complications are often an early warning sign for diabetes, especially if they present along with other indicators. Fortunately, most skin conditions are easily treated and may disappear completely once the high blood sugar levels are brought under control.
Many conditions involve the skin and are unique to the person with diabetes because of the treatment and complications of the disease generally.
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Generalized Skin Conditions:
1. Dry Skin... diabetics often suffer from localized itching caused by dry skin, yeast infections or poor circulation. Dry skin, is a consequence of diabetic neuropathy which leads to a lack of sweating, and can be treated by the constant application of skin lotion. Yeast infections can be treated orally or topically with prescribed medication. Poor circulation also causes itching in the lower parts of the legs, and should be checked out by a doctor if diabetes is suspected.
2. Fungal infections... yeast infections which commonly occur in moist folds of skin. The most common culprit is candida albicans. Other fungal infections occur under the nails or between the toes. Fungus likes moisture and elevated blood sugar levels and includes athletes' foot, jock itch and vaginal itch. Prescription medication is needed to combat chronic fungal infections... but they will recur if blood sugars and moisture are not managed
3. Bacterial infections are the most painful, and include boils, styes (at eyelash base), carbuncles that infect both the skin and tissue, and folliculitis that results in infection of the hair follicles. Infections can also manifest around the nails. The most common culprit is staphylococcus bacteria. Antibiotics can help, but continued use of antibiotics can increase the body's resistance to them, so prevention is better than treatment.
Diabetes Specific Skin Conditions:
1. Diabetic dermopathy results in changes to small blood vessels causing light brown scaly patches similar in appearance to age spots. The patches most often occur on the front of both legs in ovals or circles, and do not hurt, crack open, or itch. This condition is harmless.
2. Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum (NLD) causes spots which start as dull red raised skin that turns violet around the border, and then becomes shiny like a scar. The skin becomes thin and can ulcerate. These may itch, hurt or crack... if they ulcerate treatment by your doctor is best. Corticosteroid injections are used. Females tend to have this condition more than males.
3. Eruptive xanthomatosis presents as firm, yellow, pea-like bumps, each with a red halo. These appear most frequently on the backs of the hands or on the feet, arms, legs, and buttocks, and may itch severely. Most victims are young men with high fat and cholesterol levels in their blood, and the problem disappears once the diabetes is controlled.
4. Acanthosis nigricans presents as tan or brown raised areas on the sides of the neck, in the armpits, and around the groin. They can also occur on the hands, elbows, and knees. Most patients are overweight, and weight loss plus creams can help.
5. Insulin hypertrophy (fat hypertrophy) is the accumulation of fatty tissue where insulin is injected. This normal insulin action can be prevented by moving the injection site around. Insulin atrophy or fat loss where the insulin is injected, is rarely seen these days now that human insulin has replaced beef and pork insulin.
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Beverleigh Piepers RN... the Diabetes Detective.
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