5 Skin Conditions That Can Be a Sign of Diabetes

older man with skin condition

If you’re among the 30 million Americans with diabetes, you’re probably no stranger to the skin conditions which often accompany this disease. If you’re among the rest of the U.S. population, keep in mind that certain skin issues can often be a sign of diabetes, so it’s a good idea to stay on the lookout when it comes to your skin. Read on to learn about the top five skin conditions associated with diabetes, and what to do if you think you might have one.

Digital Sclerosis

Digital sclerosis is a skin condition marked by the hardening of the skin on your hands, fingers, and toes (the “digital” element of the condition’s name). Poor blood flow causes the skin to get tough, waxy, and tight, which can in turn make your joints stiff—a side effect that’s not fun to deal with. You can help ease symptoms of digital sclerosis with lotions and moisturizers, but keep in mind that until you get your blood sugar under control, the condition may frequently recur.

Atherosclerosis

Atherosclerosis is marked by patches of hairless, thin, and shiny skin that’s cool to the touch. It’s caused by the thickening of your body’s arteries—Atherosclerosis will narrow your blood vessels, restricting blood flow, especially to your legs. This change can affect the skin in places where the arteries are particularly narrowed, or where blood has to travel the farthest, like your hands and feet.

This lack of blood pressure can lead to a number of telltale signs of atherosclerosis, like a tingling sensation in your extremities or a lack of sensitivity to pressure, pain, or temperature. Your fingers and toes might always be cold, or minor injuries like cuts or blisters might take longer than normal to heal (or develop infections). It’s essential to pay attention to these signs of atherosclerosis because we don’t always pay attention to all areas of our skin; you might never see the skin symptoms of this condition on the back of your neck, for instance, or the back of your upper arm.

Diabetic Dermopathy (Shin Spots)

Diabetic dermopathy, or shin spots, is one of the most common skin complications for those with diabetes. It’s often misdiagnosed as simple age spots, which makes it doubly important to keep an eye out for. It’s marked by circular, scaly, light brown patches on the skin, most often on the shins, and caused by reduced blood circulation in the legs. If you’re experiencing shin spots, don’t fret too much; they aren’t typically painful or itchy, and will often disappear as blood sugar levels drop.

Infections

People with diabetes frequently experience infections, but the types vary by patient. Most common infection types include bacterial and fungal.

Bacterial

Diabetes patients experience a number of different types of bacterial infections, most commonly styes, which are infections of the eyelid glands. Besides styes, other common bacterial infections include boils, folliculitis, infections around the fingernails and toenails, and carbuncles (a deep bacterial infection of the skin and the tissue beneath). Bacterial infections are usually marked by painful, warm, red, and swollen skin in or around the infected area.

Fortunately, bacterial infections are rarely life threatening thanks to blood sugar control methods and antibiotics. Still, they can be frustrating to deal with, especially when you already have diabetes symptoms to contend with.

Staphylococcus, commonly referred to as “staph,” is one of the most common infection-causing bacteria. Here are a few tips for preventing staph infections (diabetes patients, take heed):

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after using the restroom
  • Avoid contact with wounds or bandages as much as possible, whether they be your own or someone else’s
  • Don’t share things like makeup or towels with others

Fungal

Fungal infections are most often caused by a yeast-like fungus called Candida albicans. This fungus is actually naturally found on our GI tracts and mouth, but diabetes patients are prone to develop an overabundance, which can lead to a fungal infection. Since Candida albicans is so prevalent, it’s the leading cause of fungal infections for both those with diabetes and those without.

The rash caused by this fungus is typically red, moist, and surrounded by small scales and blisters. Since fungi likes warm, moist places, the most common places for a fungal infection to grow include around the fingernails, beneath the breasts, in between the toes, and in the armpits.

Luckily, fungal infections are very treatable. Keep an eye out for these common ones:

  • Ringworm
  • Jock itch
  • Vaginal infections

Vitiligo

Vitiligo is a skin condition marked by discoloration in certain areas, but not all over. The cells that make skin pigment are destroyed, which results in splotches. It’s relatively non-discriminatory when it comes to the areas of the body it affects—vitiligo could develop on the abdomen, chest, or face. Vitiligo can be treated; treatment usually includes topical steroids or a form of tattooing called micropigmentation.

Vitiligo is most commonly found in type 1 diabetes patients, but recent studies show increased links between vitiligo and type 2 diabetes, so make sure to check your skin frequently for developing patches of discoloration.

If you already have vitiligo, don’t forget to wear sunscreen regularly to protect discolored skin that’s lost its pigment!

In-Home Treatment for Diabetics

If you’ve noticed any of the above skin conditions, visit your doctor to learn more about their possible link to diabetes. And if you currently have diabetes and are seeking treatment for your symptoms, DispatchHealth can help. We treat skin-related diabetes symptoms, like slow-healing wounds, infections, and assisting in the evaluation of new rashes within the comfort of your own home. Our services also cost one-tenth of what you would be charged for an emergency room visit. We also accept most major health insurance carriers, including Medicare and Medicaid.

woman with sprain

You don’t have to go it alone. Get in touch with DispatchHealth via our app, on the phone, or on the website. We’ll be there within a couple hours.

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About the Author
DispatchHealth Staff The DispatchHealth blog provides tips, tricks and advice for improving lives through convenient, comfortable healthcare.