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What are the skin disorders caused by diabetes?

Updated on September 9, 2016

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

Bacterial Infections

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

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

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.

Necrotising fascilitis

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

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

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

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

Web MD


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    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      Yover thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment. Much appreciated.

    • profile image

      Yover 4 years ago

      Great article! Studies show that skin tags are often related to pre diabetic or diabetes type 2 conditions too.

      Long life to HubPages!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 4 years ago from Dubai

      tillsontitan thank you, there is so much to learn. Thanks for the votes too.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      What a great primer for those suffering from diabetes. So much we don't know, and are not told! This is definitely a helpful hub.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      Eiddwen thank you and take care. Thanks for sharing and the vote too.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      Thank you so much for sharing this one Vellur;my partner has sugar diabeters stage 2 and this one is going to be really handy.

      Take care and enjoy your day.

      I vote up and share.


    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      Funoma Makama, your valuable input is much appreciated and thank you for sharing this information with us.

    • Funom Makama 3 profile image

      Funom Theophilus Makama 5 years ago from Europe

      This is an excellent Hub. In some certain regions of the world, they believe by not taking the usual refined sugar in some of their fluids, they will avoid diabetes (especially type 2), but when you consider their food intake, more than 80% of their daily consumption consists of carbohydrates which are broken down into simple SUGARS.... Especially in Africa, Diabetes is called "A Big man's disease" Because most rich men get caught up with it, despite not taking sugars in their meals/fluids for decades.

      World Health organization has given a recommendation of at least a 10Km walk every week and if this is maintained, the risk of diabetes and other related diseases can be dropped by 70%. the essence of this is to break down the simple sugars already stored in the body for metabolism and use even as we engage in activities (the walking). Also, those who are obessed are also at a high risk of getting this disease, hence should try some weight loss programs. If these few recommendations are practiced, one can still be taking a moderate amount of sugars even in their daily consumption.

      this is such a lovely hub and since I am a strong advocate of preventive medicine, I felt this little info would help add more quality to this materpiece of yours. thanks for the info.

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      praseito30, exercise and a proper diet can work wonders for our body. Thank you for stopping by.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very informative hub. You peeled about diabetes in good manner. We all know that diabetes always haunted us. So we must keep our health and arrange the eating pattern. By combining with the exercise regularly, I believe that we can control the sugar level in the body. Voted up!

      Best wishes, Prasetio

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      Wayne Brown am so glad your son is handling this condition well and has taken care of himself. With a healthy life style and diet am sure your son will have a wonderful time and a great future. Take care.

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

      I can attest to your points here. Our son was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes at age 11. For most his years through high school, he just wanted to ignore the situation thinking it would go away. Then about three years ago, he had an espisode which put him in the emergency room with a blood gluclose level nearing 700. He was actually still conscious. After that, he began an exercise regime and totally changed his diet. His acne and other skin conditions improved drastically as did his color and demeanor. He is a much differen person today and far less angry with regard to his condition. Like those of us who have high blood pressure, he has diabetes and he deals with it as such. The skin conditions become an outward sign of how unbalanced the blood is....these are warning signs which cannot be ignored. Thanks much for sharing this excellent info. ~WB

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      Pollyannalana am glad you came to know about this. People with diabetes can easily get skin infections because of the high glucose level.

      dinkan53 thank you for stopping by. Thanks for the vote and sharing too.

      Rosemay50 diabetes has to be kept under control. It affects the entire body. Am glad you came to know about these.

      billybuc am glad you do not have this, and do pass this on. Thank you.

      Ruchira thank you, I will connect with the steph's hub. This will be very useful, thanks for the suggestion. Cheers to you too!!

      teaches12345 am glad my hub will be a handy reference. Diabetes affects the skin to a great extent. Thank you.

      Movie Master thanks for stopping by and have a great day.

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      A very interesting and well researched article vellur, thank you and voted up

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I have family with diabetes. I never knew that all these conditions were possible. I am going to have to keep this handy for reference. Voted way up!

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 5 years ago from United States

      Great research, nithya.

      As bill said...I just read a hub by steph on swimming for people ailing from diabetes. These two should connect.


    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This must be diabetes day....this is the third diabetes hub I have read this morning. Great job of presenting the facts, and great suggestions. I do not have this disease but I know others who do, so passing this on.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 5 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      Wow I didn't realise there were so many. A very useful hub, you put a lot of research into this, appreciated

    • dinkan53 profile image

      dinkan53 5 years ago from India

      Great job vellur, pretty good reserch you have done to write this article. Voted and tweeted.

    • Pollyannalana profile image

      Pollyannalana 5 years ago from US

      Wow you know my dad had diabetes and I gave him shots for years yet never knew all this. Thank you for all this research. Much appreciated!