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Diabetes Health Center

Diabetes and Your Skin

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For people with diabetes, having too much glucose (sugar) in their blood for a long time can cause serious complications, including skin problems. In fact, as many as a third of people with diabetes will have a skin condition related to their disease at some time in their lives. Fortunately, most skin conditions can be prevented and successfully treated if caught early. But if not cared for properly, a minor skin condition in a person with diabetes can turn into a serious problem with potentially severe consequences.

Skin Conditions Linked to Diabetes

  • Scleredema diabeticorum: This condition causes a thickening of the skin on the back of the neck and upper back. This condition is rare, but can affect people with type 2 diabetes. The treatment is to bring your blood glucose level under control. Lotions and moisturizers may help soften the skin.
  • Vitiligo: Vitiligo is a condition that affects skin coloration. With vitiligo, the special cells that make pigment (the substance that controls skin color) are destroyed, resulting in patches of discolored skin. Vitiligo often affects the chest and abdomen, but may be found on the face around the mouth, nostrils, and eyes. This condition is more commonly associated with type 1 diabetes. Current treatment options for vitiligo include topical steroid creams, ultraviolet light treatments, and micropigmentation (tattooing). You should use sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher to prevent sunburn on the discolored skin.

Problems associated with insulin resistance

  • Acanthosis nigricans: This is a condition that results in the darkening and thickening of certain areas of the skin, especially in the skin folds. The skin becomes tan or brown and is sometimes slightly raised and described as velvety. Most often the condition, which typically looks like a small wart, appears on the sides or back of the neck, the armpits, under the breast, and groin. Occasionally, the top of the knuckles will have a particularly unusual appearance. Acanthosis nigricans usually strikes people who are very overweight. There is no cure for acanthosis nigricans, but losing weight may improve the condition. Acanthosis nigricans usually precedes diabetes. There are other conditions that also are known to cause acanthosis nigricans, including acromegaly and Cushing's syndrome. This condition is a skin manifestation of insulin resistance in most people.
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One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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