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Almost all diabetic patients develop some type of skin complications from the long-term effects of diabetes. Skin infections are more common in patients with type 2 diabetes whereas auto-immune-related lesions are more common with those with type 1. Patients who have had diabetes for many years tend to develop the most devastating skin problems and therefore, it is important to be seen regularly by a dermatologist such as Dr. Kathleen Smith at Dermatology Specialists of Atlanta.

Skin conditions caused by diabetes can be kept under control, if they are caught early. Keeping proper control of your blood sugar can prevent skin problems, and many other diabetes symptoms, from happening in the first place.

Diabetic-Specific Skin Conditions:

Acanthosis Nigricans – More often seen among people of African descent or with darker skin tones. It is often found in people with obesity-related insulin resistance. Symptoms include dark, velvety skin with very visible marking and creases in the armpits, groin, and neck folds, and over the joints of fingers and toes.

Diabetic Blisters – Blisters that appear on the hands, toes, feet or forearms that are thought to be caused by diabetic neuropathy. They are usually painless. Keeping blood glucose under control is the only treatment for this condition.

Diabetic Dermapathy – This common skin condition affects approximately 50% of diabetic people. It occurs even more among long term diabetics or those who have poorly controlled diabetes. Shin spots or pigmented pretibial patches are found on the lower legs caused from changes in the small blood vessels that supply the skin and from minor leakage of blood products from these vessels into the skin.

Bacterial Infections – While anyone can get a bacterial skin infection, diabetics are more prone to bacterial infections. Eyelid styes, boils, nail infections and carbuncles are very common among diabetics. Dr. Smith will prescribe antibiotic creams which will usually clear up the infection.

Neuropathy-Related Skin Problems – Diabetes can cause nerve damage and people may lose the sensation to feel in their feet.  If they step on something and they don’t feel it, a foot ulcer may develop and become infected. It is important to check your feet everyday or have them checked regularly by a dermatologist like Dr. Kathleen Smith at Dermatology Specialists of Atlanta.

Digital Sclerosis – A skin condition that affects about 1/3 of those with type 1 diabetes. The skin on the back of the hands becomes thick, tight, and waxy. The finger joints stiffen and become difficult to move. Sometimes skin on the forehead and toes may be affected aw well. Good blood glucose control is the only treatment while some moisturizer may be helpful in softening the skin.

Disseminated Granuloma Annulare – This condition occurs on fingers and ears and may cause mild itching. Skin becomes slightly raised, bumpy, or ring shaped spots may appear which are skin colored, red, or red-brown.

Eruptive Xanthomatosis – Out-of-control diabetes can cause this skin condition. Growths appear that are firm, yellow, and pea-like. The bumps have a red halo around them and may itch. This skin condition occurs mostly in young men with type 1 diabetes who also have high cholesterol and very high triglycerides (fat in the blood). The main treatment is keeping blood glucose levels down.

Vitiligo – Researchers have found a link between type 1 diabetes and vitiligo. This condition causes melanin cells to be destroyed, leading to irregular, blotchy patches that often occur on the hands, face, or chest.


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