When your body is in trouble, sometimes the warning signs are right in your face —literally. Skin complications can be the first indication of diabetes. If your skin starts flashing warning signs like the examples below, your body’s largest organ may be trying to tell you something.
Although skin complications are often a package deal with a diabetes diagnosis, you can still prevent them from occurring and recurring. Diagnosing skin issues with a board-certified dermatologist is your first step toward conquering them.
These are common skin complications linked to diabetes.
1. Skin discoloration
Be on the lookout for patches of skin with yellow, red or brown discoloration. If you see these patches, you may be suffering from a skin condition called necrobiosis lipoidica. This skin issue is often misdiagnosed at first because the hallmark bumps resemble pimples. But, over time, these bumps turn into painful patches of itchy, swollen, hardened skin. Treatment for this skin disease is tricky because it goes through cycles of activity and inactivity. Involve an experienced dermatologist to prevent and treat this serious condition.
2. Darker area of skin that feels like velvet
A dark patch (or band) of velvety skin on the back of your neck, armpit, groin, or elsewhere could mean that you have too much insulin in your blood. This is often a sign of prediabetes. The medical name for this skin condition is acanthosis nigricans.
3. Itchy, dry skin
When your body can’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin well, sugars accumulate in blood. This high blood glucose is recognized by your body as dangerous, so it attempts to remove the excess by increasing urination. Loss of fluid puts your body into a rationed state, causing your skin to become dry. Dry skin triggers many related surface-symptoms, such as itchiness, cracking and redness.
4. Hard, thickening skin
When this develops on the fingers, toes, or both, the medical name for this condition is digital sclerosis.
On the hands, you’ll notice tight, waxy skin on the backs of your hands. The fingers can become stiff and difficult to move. If diabetes has been poorly controlled for years, it can feel like you have pebbles in your fingertips.
Hard, thick, and swollen-looking skin can spread, appearing on the forearms and upper arms. It can also develop on the upper back, shoulders, and neck. Sometimes, the thickening skin spreads to the face, shoulders, and chest.
In rare cases, the skin over the knees, ankles, or elbows also thickens, making it difficult to straighten your leg, point your foot, or bend your arm. Wherever it appears, the thickened skin often has the texture of an orange peel.
This skin problem usually develops in people who have complications due to diabetes or diabetes that is difficult to treat.
One of the rarer skin complications linked to diabetes is blisters on the hands, legs, feet and forearms that appear suddenly. Those with this skin complication may see a large blister, a group of blisters or both. Although these blisters are not painful, they must be treated with acute care because they can lead to secondary infections. Diabetic blisters require a board-certified dermatologist to examine them to prevent more serious skin complications.
6. Skin infections
People who have diabetes tend to get skin infections. If you have a skin infection, you’ll notice one or more of the following:
– Hot, swollen skin that is painful
– An itchy rash and sometimes tiny blisters, dry scaly skin, or a white discharge that looks like cottage cheese
– A skin infection can occur on any area of your body, including between your toes, around one or more of your nails, and on your scalp.
7. Red or skin-colored raised bumps
Whether this skin condition is associated with diabetes is controversial. We know that most people who have granuloma annulare do not have diabetes. Several studies, however, have found this skin condition in patients who have diabetes. One such study found that people with diabetes were most likely to have granuloma annulare over large areas of skin and that the bumps came and went. Another study concluded that people who have granuloma annulare that comes and goes should be tested for diabetes.
8. Open sores and wounds
Having high blood sugar (glucose) for a long time can lead to poor circulation and nerve damage. You may have developed these if you’ve had uncontrolled (or poorly controlled) diabetes for a long time.
Poor circulation and nerve damage can make it hard for your body to heal wounds. This is especially true on the feet. These open wounds are called diabetic ulcers.
Sources: cbs12.com, aad.org