What are the skin disorders caused by diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition that occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or when the cells in the body do not respond to insulin or both of these conditions.
What is diabetes? – A short introduction
Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas to help our body cells to absorb glucose present in the bloodstream. The glucose that is absorbed by the cells is used for energy and growth by the body.
When the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the cells do not respond to insulin, or when both these conditions occur, the level of glucose in the body shoots up. The increase in the blood glucose level results in a condition called diabetes also known as “diabetes mellitus”.
Skin disorders due to diabetes
Staphylococcus is a bacterium that most commonly affects the skin of people with diabetes. This infection results in boils occurring on the skin. These boils are inflamed nodules that grow out from the hair follicles due to the bacterial infection. Other bacterial infections like eyelid styes, nail infections, carbuncles can also occur. Bacterial infections can be controlled with the use of antibiotic creams, antibiotic tablets or both.
Fungal infections occur in warm, moist areas of the skin resulting in itchy, red rashes with blisters. The fungal infection can appear at the corners of the mouth, in between toes, fingers or on the nails.
Candida albicans is a fungus that is responsible for most of the skin infections in people with diabetes. Mucormycosis is a fatal fungal infection that starts in the nose and spreads to the ears and brains. Fungal infections can be cured with the proper medication to kill the fungus.
Itching of the skin is a condition that occurs in people who have diabetes mainly due to yeast infections, dry skin or poor blood circulation. This itching mostly takes place in the lower part of the legs. The itching can be treated by applying a moisturizer after a bath and using mild soap. There are special creams to treat such conditions.
Diabetic blisters occur in people with severe diabetes. These blisters are painless and heal on their own. They occur on the toes, fingers, legs or forearms. Diabetic blisters can be avoided by bringing the glucose level in the blood under control.
Vitiligo is a condition that affects the skin coloration. The pigments that are responsible for the skin color are destroyed resulting in discolored patches. These patches occur around the face, mouth, nostrils and ears.
Xanthomas and Xanthalasma
Xanthomas and Xanthelasma are due to high cholesterol in the blood in diabetic patients. Xanthomas is characterized by yellow nodules on the elbow, knees, and heels. They sometimes occur as pin sized lumps. Xanthelasma is also characterized by yellow patches on the eyelids.
Disseminated Granuloma Annulare
Granuloma Annulare is a skin condition in which red spots appear on the skin that slowly enlarges and forms a ring-like a shape on the skin. They commonly occur on the fingers, ears and sometimes on the trunk.
This is a painful skin infection in which blisters or swelling of the skin occurs. The infection may spread to the muscles and can become life threatening.
Necrobiosis lipodica diabectorium
Necrobiosis lipodica is characterized by lesions with a yellowish center and a brownish red border. This skin infection may also indicate the onset of diabetes. This is because the small blood vessels get affected due to diabetes.
Artherosclerosis is the thickening of the blood vessels, that supply blood to the legs. The skin on the legs become hairless, thin, and shiny. The feet become cold, and the toenails thicken with discoloration. People with such a condition experience pain in the calf muscles while exercising. All this happens because the muscles are not getting enough oxygen. Small cuts and scrapes of the skin tend to heal very slowly.
Digital Sclerosis is a condition in which the skin on the back of the hands becomes waxy, thick and tightly stretched. Sometimes the knees, ankles or elbows become stiff. The joints of the fingers do not move properly due to the stiffness.
Diabetic dermopathy occurs on the skin as brown scars or spots. They commonly occur on the shin. This condition is due to abnormal changes in the small blood vessels that supply blood to the skin due to diabetes.
Acanthosis nigricans is a skin condition that occurs as dark, brownish black, velvety thickening of the skin folds in the armpits, upper back, and neck.
Cellulitis is a deep bacterial skin infection that leads to reddened swelling of the legs.
All skin conditions due to diabetes can be treated by controlling the glucose level in the blood. Blood glucose levels can be controlled by exercising and by following a proper diet. Consult a dermatologist for proper treatment of skin conditions.
National Skin Center