It's common knowledge that diabetes can lead to a lot of health complications, but you may not know that even your skin isn't safe from the effects of diabetes. Diabetes can cause a variety of different skin conditions. Here are four skin conditions that people with diabetes need to watch out for.
Acanthosis nigricans is a condition where dark patches of discoloration appear on your skin. These discolored patches may be thick and uncomfortable, and they often affect the folds and creases of your body, like your armpits and neck. Diabetes causes this condition due to the effects of insulin resistance and high blood sugar on your skin. High levels of insulin and glucose in your skin lead to the production of melanin which manifests itself as dark patches.
Controlling your diabetes can help get your skin discoloration under control, but if that's not enough, your dermatologist can give a prescription for a cream that will lighten your skin. If your patches are thick your dermatologist may also perform laser treatments to relieve your discomfort.
Scleredema is a skin condition that is characterized by hardening and thickening of the skin. It's not the same thing as scleroderma, an autoimmune disease with a similar presentation. The hardened areas of the skin feel firm and may be red or brown. These hardened areas are often dimpled and have been compared to the skin of an orange. This complication of diabetes develops slowly and can take months or even years to develop.
This condition is a rare complication of diabetes, so dermatologists don't encounter it very often. For this reason, dermatologists still aren't sure what the best treatment method for scleredema is. Treatments like oral corticosteroids, immunosuppressant drugs like ciclosporin, and ultraviolet light exposure have been shown to have some benefit.
Vitiligo is a skin condition that is characterized by depigmented areas of skin. These depigmented areas don't have any melanin and appear white, in sharp contrast to your regular skin tone. There is a strong association between this skin condition and diabetes, and researchers think that this may be because both conditions are autoimmune diseases. Another theory is that the high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes injure the cells within your skin that produce melanin, the pigment that gives your skin its color. When these cells are injured, they don't make melanin, and the result is a white patch.
Immunosuppressant drugs have been shown to be an effective treatment for this skin condition. Your dermatologist may also give you creams to darken the light patches on your skin. Some people also cover the patches with makeup to make them less noticeable.
Cutaneous candidiasis is a fungal infection of the skin; it's caused by the candida fungus. This fungus is naturally present on your hair, nails, and skin, but this isn't a problem for people with healthy immune systems. The immune system keeps the growth of the fungus under control. Diabetes weakens your immune system, which means that the fungus has the advantage and can grow and spread. This makes red, moist patches develop on your skin, and these patches may also contain small pustules.
Your dermatologist will treat cutaneous candidiasis with antifungal medications. These medications are applied in cream or powder form and work by killing the candida fungus. Once the infection is gone, you can prevent a recurrence by keeping your blood sugar levels under control.
Diabetes has an effect on your whole body, and your skin is no exception. If you have diabetes, you are at risk of conditions like acanthosis nigricans, scleredema, vitiligo, and cutaneous candidiasis. If you notice any changes in your skin, make sure to see your dermatologist right away.