Diabetic skin complications can come in the form of commonplace skin afflictions that are aggravated by diabetes as well as skin ailments specific to those suffering from the disease. According to the American Diabetics Association as many as 33% of people suffering from diabetes will have a skin disorder or complication related to the disease and the University of Maryland Medical Center states uncontrolled glucose levels for more than five years nearly always results in diabetic skin complications as well as affecting the limbs and feet. Diabetic skin complications such as bacterial and fungal infections can afflict anyone while others such as diabetic dermopathy, necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum, diabetic blisters, and eruptive xanthomatosis afflict only those with diabetes.


Cause of Diabetic Skin Conditions


Almost all diabetic skin conditions are directly related to glucose levels and can be prevented by following the proper treatment program. Generally speaking, when glucose levels become too high the skin dries in two ways: the kidneys begin use excessive water to flush out glucose causing the body to lose moisture; or due to nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy) the lower extremities don’t sweat creating a lack of moisture on the skin. As the skin dries it cracks and becomes more susceptible to infection causing germs and fungus. Signs of bacterial infection may be blisters, styes, boils, infected hair follicles, and nails while fungal infections usually occur as rashes such as jock itch, ringworm, or athlete’s foot.


Diabetic Skin Complications by Diabetic Type


In a paper published in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine (http://www.ccjm.org/content/75/11/772.full) doctors found that diabetic skin complications were related to the type of diabetes the patient suffered with most type 1 patients suffering from “autoimmune-related lesions” and type 2 patients suffering from skin infections. While long-term patients are more susceptible, acute diabetic skin complications may arise as side effects of glucose-lowering drugs, particularly at injection points. In type 2 patients some of the most common diabetic skin complications are yellow nails, thickened skin, skin tags, shin spots (dermopathy), hyperpigmentation (acanthosis nigricans), and raised yellow bumps (eruptive xanthomatosis). Most skin infections occur in people with type 2 diabetes and are a sign of poor glycemic control. Additionally, candidal infection (moniloasis) can be an early indicator of undiagnosed diabetes. In type 1 diabetic skin complications differ in that they are related to the autoimmune system and are rarely treated with glycemic control, favoring topical treatments.

In both types obesity is also related to diabetic skin complications, particularly acanthosis nigricans and scleroderma diabeticorum, a thickening of the skin on the neck and back. In both cases weight loss and tighter glucose control are important.