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What Effect Does Diabetes Have On Skin


Dryness Starts A Harmful Cycle

Why Do People Living With Diabetes Have Flaky Skin?

makes people more prone to dry and itchy skin or infections. decreases the amount of fluid your body holds, leaving your skin parched and prickly. Nerve damage can also stifle your sweat response. As a result, your skin loses natural softness and moisture.

You may notice dry skin first on your legs, feet, and elbows, but it can occur anywhere on your body. Scratching can produce cracks, creating a way for bacteria and other germs to enter. Bacteria and fungi can also invade the glands of your eyelids, your hair follicles, the area around your nails, the spaces between your fingers and toes, and your armpits or groin, among other sites.

Harmful infections receive sustenance from blood sugar. Diabetics have generally weaker immune systems, making them less able to fight infections. Also, nerve damage and poor circulation slow tissue healing. As a result, people with diabetes often have more frequent and serious wounds and skin infections than people without the condition.

Infected tissues often burn, appear red or swollen, itch, or form blisters or scales. Talk with your doctor if you spot any of these signs. You may need prescription medicines such as the antifungal drug Diflucan to control an infection.


How Does Diabetes Affect Your Skin

Posted by Avery Chernin on December 04, 2019

Diabetes comes with a whole host of medical problems, but skin issues are not usually the first thing to pop into people’s heads when they of the dangers of diabetes.

That being said, the American Diabetes Association actually suggests that skin problems are often the first visible symptom of diabetes.

Sexual Function And Diabetes

Reduced blood supply and nerve damage can affect sexual function. Erectile dysfunction in men is the persistent inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for satisfactory sexual performance. This is a common problem for men of all ages and is more common in men with diabetes. Erectile dysfunction is not a disease, but a symptom of some other problem physical, psychological or a mixture of both. Most cases of erectile dysfunction are physical, such as nerve or blood vessel damage. In women, sexual dysfunction is also reported, although there is a lack of research in this area. It is difficult to know whether this is directly related to hormonal changes such as menopause, or to diabetes.It is important to seek help from your doctor, diabetes educator or organisations such as Healthy Male Andrology Australia.

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Ichthyosiform Changes Of The Shins

Ichthyosiform changes of the shins presents with large bilateral areas of dryness and scaling . Although cutaneous changes may occur on the hands or feet, the anterior shin is most classically involved. These cutaneous changes are related to rapid skin aging and adhesion defects in the stratum corneum . The prevalence of ichthyosiform changes of the shins in those with type 1 diabetes has been reported to be between 22% to 48% . These changes present relatively early in the disease course of diabetes. There is no known difference in prevalence between males and females . The development of ichthyosiform changes of the shins is related to production of advanced glycosylation end products and microangiopathic changes. Treatment is limited but topical emollients or keratolytic agents may be beneficial .

Skin Problems Related To Diabetes

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Diabetics face a variety of potential skin problems. Those with diabetes are at an increased risk for bacterial or fungal skin infection. Infection with the bacteria Staphylococcus, commonly known as staph infection, causes styes, boils, folliculitis, and even deep infection , and this type of infection is even more serious in those with poor control of their diabetes . Fungal infections may affect the nails, body folds, genital regions, and feet. The darkening and thickening of body folds due to insulin resistance, called acanthosis nigricans, may be early symptoms of diabetes. Diabetic dermopathy, damage to small blood vessels of the skin, may cause small, brown spots on the legs. Granuloma annulare are red, circular or arc-shaped lesions due to changes in the collagen of the skin.

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What Other Problems Can People With Diabetes Have

If you have diabetes, you need to watch out for blood sugar levels that are very high or very low . These can happen quickly and can become dangerous. Some of the causes include having another illness or infection and certain medicines. They can also happen if you don’t get the right amount of diabetes medicines. To try to prevent these problems, make sure to take your diabetes medicines correctly, follow your diabetic diet, and check your blood sugar regularly.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases


The Effects Of Diabetes On Your Body

When you hear the word diabetes, your first thought is likely about high blood sugar.

Blood sugar is an often-underestimated component of your health. When its out of balance over a long period of time, it could develop into diabetes.

Diabetes your bodys ability to produce or use insulin, a hormone that allows your body to turn glucose into energy.

Here are what symptoms may occur to your body when diabetes develops.

Normally after you eat or drink, your body will break down sugars from your food and use them for energy in your cells.


To accomplish this, your pancreas needs to produce a hormone called insulin. Insulin is what facilitates the process of pulling sugar from the blood and putting it in the cells for use, or energy.

If you have diabetes, your pancreas either produces too little insulin or none at all. The insulin cant be used effectively.

This allows blood glucose levels to rise while the rest of your cells are deprived of much-needed energy. This can lead to a wide variety of problems affecting nearly every major body system.

main types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2.

Type 1, also called juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, is an immune system disorder. Your own immune system attacks the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, destroying your bodys ability to make insulin. With type 1 diabetes, you must take insulin to live. Most people receive their type 1 diagnosis as a child or young adult.


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Allergic Reactions To Medications

Nearly any diabetes medicationincluding insulincan trigger an allergic reaction that brings on symptoms that affect the skin, such as itching, swelling, rash, or redness.

Why it happens: Allergic reactions to medications occur because a person has a pre-existing sensitivity to either the drug itself or to an inactive ingredient in the drug, such as a preservative. Some people who use injectable medications experience skin reactions that are limited to the area where the needle was inserted.

What to do: Call your healthcare provider if you have an allergic reaction to a diabetes medication. He or she may instruct you to take an over-the-counter medication to relieve itching in the short term, and then will discuss trying a different drug to treat your diabetes.

If skin changes brought on by medication are accompanied by difficulty breathing or other alarming symptoms, get emergency help immediately.


Diabetes And Cardiovascular Disease

7 Skin Warning Signs of Diabetes

Cardiovascular disease includes blood vessel disease, heart attack and stroke. It’s the leading cause of death in Australia.

The risk of cardiovascular disease is greater for people with diabetes, who often have increased cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Smoking, having a family history of cardiovascular disease and being inactive also increase your risk.To reduce your risk and pick up any problems early:

  • Have your blood pressure checked at least every six months, or more often if you have high blood pressure or are taking medication to lower your blood pressure.
  • Have your HbA1c checked at least every year, or three- to six-monthly if recommended.
  • Have your cholesterol checked at least every year. Further pathology tests such as an electrocardiogram or exercise stress test may also be recommended by your doctor.

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What Are The Signs And Symptoms

Diabetic dermopathy lesions appear most frequently on the shins. Less commonly lesions can be found on the front of the thighs, forearm, side of the foot, scalp and trunk. Features of lesions are:

  • Round or oval-shaped
  • Initially scaly but then flattens out and becomes indented
  • Commonly occur on both shins.

The presence of four or more lesions is almost always limited to patients with diabetes. People presenting with shin spots not already diagnosed with diabetes should undergo a further investigation to rule out the possibility of early diabetes.


Common Skin Conditions Linked To Diabetes

Itching skin, also called pruritus, can have many causes, such as dry skin, poor blood flow, or a yeast infection. When itching is caused by poor blood flow, youâll likely feel it in your lower legs and feet. Lotion can help to keep your skin soft and moist, and prevent itching due to dry skin.

Bacterial infections: Staphylococcus skin infections are more common and more serious in people with poorly controlled diabetes. When hair follicles are irritated, these bacteria can cause boils or an inflamed bump.

Other infections include:

  • Styes, which are infections of the eyelid glands
  • Nail infections

Most bacterial infections need to be treated with antibiotic pills. Talk with your doctor.

Fungal infections: Warm, moist folds of the skin are the perfect breeding ground for these infections.Three common fungal infections are:


A yeast-like fungus called “Candida albicans” causes many of the fungal infections that happen to people with diabetes. Women are likely to get this in their vaginas.

People also tend to get this infection on the corners of their mouth. It feels like small cuts and is called “angular cheilitis.”

Onychomycosis is a fungal infection of the fingernails and toenails that is more prevalent among people with diabetes. It causes discoloration, thickening, and separation from the nail bed.

It usually starts before diabetes, and it can be a sign of insulin resistance. While there’s no cure, losing weight may help.

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Diabetes And Its Effect On Digestion

Diabetes can affect digestion in a number of ways. If diabetes has caused nerve damage, this can lead to nausea, constipation or diarrhoea.

An alternative cause of disturbed digestion can be the result of diabetes medication.

Some type 2 diabetes medications for instance are prone to causing digestive issues, although these tend to settle down after the body gets used to them.

Why Are Diabetics More Prone To Skin Problems

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People with diabetes may experience greater loss of fluid from the body due to high blood glucose levels, which can cause dry skin on the legs, elbows, feet and other areas of the body.

If dry skin becomes cracked, germs can get into these areas and cause infection, meaning that taking care of the skin is essential.


If not checked regularly, even minor skin care problems can evolve into serious diabetes complications, such as diabetic foot ulcers and even amputation

Keeping the skin, particularly of your feet, in good condition should be a priority for people with diabetes.

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Long Term Effects Of Diabetes On The Body

In addition to the symptoms, diabetes can cause long term damage to our body. The long term damage is commonly referred to as diabetic complications

Diabetes affects our blood vessels and nerves and therefore can affect any part of the body.


However, certain parts of our body are affected more than other parts.

Diabetic complications will usually take a number of years of poorly controlled diabetes to develop. Complications are not a certainty and can be kept at bay and prevented by maintaining a strong level of control on your diabetes, your blood pressure and cholesterol

These can all be helped by keeping to a healthy diet, avoiding cigarettes and alcohol, and incorporating regular activity into your daily regime in order to keep blood sugar levels within recommended blood glucose level guidelines

Shin Spots Or Diabetic Dermopathy

This condition involves circular, reddish, or light-brown patches that usually appear on the shins or other bony parts of the body. Patches are also usually indented and scaly.

Around 33 percent of people with type 1 diabetes and 39 percent of those with type 2 diabetes develop diabetic dermopathy.


The condition is caused by nerve and blood vessel damage, in particular small blood vessel changes.

As the condition impacts areas of the body with less protective muscle and fat, lesions may reflect an increased response to injury.

Lesions are harmless, and the person does not usually need treatment.

Sometimes, insignificant wounds can become open sores called diabetic ulcers. These can occur anywhere on the skin but are most common on the feet.

Diabetes can affect blood circulation and the nervous system. If a person has a wound on their foot due, for example, to ill-fitting shoes, the lack of sensation in the foot can mean that they do not notice the injury. In addition, low blood supply can make it harder for wounds to heal.

Without treatment, an ulcer can develop. If this becomes infected, there is a risk of tissue death, and the person may ultimately need an amputation.

It is essential for people with diabetes to:

  • manage their blood sugar levels
  • check their feet and other parts of the body regularly for wounds or lesions that may need attention

According to an article in

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What Causes Skin Problems In Diabetics

Having chronically high blood sugar levels is often associated with poor circulation, which reduces blood flow to the skin, as well as causing damage to blood vessels and nerves.

The decreased circulation can also affect the skin’s collagen production, which can cause skin to become weak and increase your sensitivity to temperature and pressure.

All of these things together can lead to skin which has a very poor ability to heal itself, which means that minor cuts, scrapes, and infections can become serious medical concerns.

Diabetes And Skin Care

Harmful Effects of Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic, metabolic disorder characterized by elevated blood glucose levels, due to an absolute or relative insulin deficiency, and is associated with numerous complications including those involving the skin.

Proper skin care in diabetes involves keeping blood sugar levels under control and measures to prevent skin complications.

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Itchy Dry Skin And Rashes

One of the most common diabetes-related skin symptoms and a sign of elevated glucose levels is dryness. Your lower legs are usually the first to develop dry skin and subsequent itching. Controlling the itch should be a priority. This will allow you to minimize scratching, which is important because diabetics can have a harder time healing and fending off bacteria if the skin is broken or inflamed.2 Stabilizing diabetes and glucose levels can also help reduce dryness and itching.1

Tips For Diabetic Skin Care

Skin care for people with diabetes is really no different to that which is required by those who dont have diabetes. However, a few extra skin care tips can help ensure and maintain healthy skin.

  • Wash with a mild, neutral soap and make sure that as well as rinsing you also dry yourself. This may include drying between your toes, under your arms, and anywhere else that water can hide.
  • Use a moisturising lotion to keep you skin soft and moist. This type of cream is widely available and can make a huge difference.
  • Keeping hydrated can help with keeping your skin moist and healthy.
  • Wear loose-fitting underwear made from 100% cotton this allows a healthy through flow of air.
  • Consider wearing special socks and shoes if you have neuropathy and are worried about skin care of your feet.
  • Keep a close eye on any dry or red spots on your skin, and be ready to act by ontacting your healthcare professional sooner rather than later.
  • Keep an extra close eye on any areas affected by neuropathy and make sure to seek professional advice at an early stage.
  • Seek medical advice if you have persistent dry skin as this can lead to infections, which can quickly develop into serious complications.

If your skin problems worsen over time, see a doctor immediately.

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What Are Common Skin Changes That I May See

  • A smooth, dark thickness in the skin on your neck, groin, face, and underarms
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Skin tags on your eyelids, neck, or underarms
  • Yellow color of your palms, soles of your feet, and nails
  • Dark patches on your shins
  • A constant redness of your face and neck
  • Thick skin on the back of your hands and the top of your feet

What Other Skin Conditions Affect People With Diabetes

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People with diabetes can have any skin condition. But sometimes, people with diabetes have a rash or other skin irritation due to:

  • Allergic reactions: People with diabetes may have an allergic reaction to oral diabetes medications or injectable insulin. You may develop a rash or hives and swelling at the injection site or elsewhere on your body. Contact your healthcare provider if you think youre having an allergic reaction.
  • Bacterial infections: Having diabetes increases the risk of bacterial skin infections. You may develop bacterial infections in eyelid glands or deep under the skin . Infected skin may be swollen, hot, red and painful. Youll need antibiotics to get rid of the infection.
  • Dry, itchy skin: High blood sugar and certain skin conditions can cause dry, itchy skin. If you have poor blood circulation, your lower legs may itch the most. Moisturizers can help.
  • Fungal infections: A yeast called Candida albicans causes most fungal infections in people with diabetes. Youll have moist areas of tiny red blisters or scales that itch. Skin fungus tends to affect skin folds, including under the breast, between fingers and toes, around nailbeds, and in the armpits and groin. Common fungal infections include jock itch, athletes foot and ringworm. Antifungal medications can help.

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