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Diabetes Health Center

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Diabetes and Your Skin

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Less-Common Conditions continued...

Digital sclerosis: Due to poor blood flow, the skin on your toes, fingers, and hands becomes thick, waxy, and tight. It can also make your finger joints stiff.  Get your blood sugar under control, because that can help treat this condition. Try lotions and moisturizers to help soften the skin.

When you have issues with your heart or blood vessels:

  • Atherosclerosis: This is the narrowing of blood vessels. They become narrower as the vessel walls get thick from plaque buildup. That can affect blood supply to your skin. When the blood vessels that bring oxygen to the skin become narrow, changes can happen, such as hair loss and thinning, shiny skin (especially on the shins), thickened and discolored toenails, and cold skin. Because blood carries the white blood cells that help fight infection, your legs and feet can heal more slowly when they are injured.
  • Eruptive xanthomatosis: Severe insulin resistance can make it hard for your body to get rid of fat in your blood. When you have very high cholesterol, this skin condition can happen. Firm, yellow, waxy pea-like bumps on the skin are surrounded by red halos and are itchy. These usually show up on the eyes, elbows, face, and buttocks. They also can appear on the back side of the arms and legs. To treat it, your doctor will work to control the level of fats in your blood. The bumps usually go away over several weeks. You might also need drugs that control different types of fats in the blood (lipid-lowering drugs).

Uncommon Conditions

Diabetes-related blisters (bullous diabeticorum): In rare cases, people with diabetes get blisters that resemble burn blisters. These can affect the fingers, hands, toes, feet, legs, or forearms. They're usually painless and they heal on their own. They often happen in people who have severe diabetes and diabetic neuropathy. For treatment, your doctor will help you get your blood sugar levels under control.

Disseminated granuloma annulare: This condition causes sharply defined ring- or arc-shaped areas on the skin. These rashes most often happen on the fingers and ears, but they can appear on the chest and abdomen, too. The rash can be red, red-brown, or skin-colored. Treatment usually isn't needed, but sometimes a steroid medication you put on your skin, such as hydrocortisone, can help.

Scleredema diabeticorum: This condition causes a thickening of the skin on the back of the neck and upper back. It's rare, but it can affect people with type 2 diabetes. The treatment is to bring your blood sugar levels under control. Lotions and moisturizers might help soften your skin.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on December 27, 2014
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