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Diabetes Health Center

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Skin Problems in Diabetes

If you have diabetes, it’s important to be aware of potentially serious skin problems related to the disease and see your doctor before the problem gets out of control. In most cases, skin problems in diabetes can be managed with early diagnosis and treatment.

Some Skin Problems Linked to Diabetes

  • Scleroderma diabeticorum: While rare, this skin problem affects people with type 2 diabetes, causing a thickening of the skin on the back of the neck and upper back. The treatment is to bring your blood sugar level under control. Lotions and moisturizers may help soften skin.
  • Vitiligo: Vitiligo, a skin problem more commonly associated with type 1 diabetes than type 2 diabetes, 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. Current treatment options for vitiligo include topical steroids and micropigmentation (tattooing). If you have vitiligo, you should use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to prevent sunburn on the discolored skin.

Skin Problems Linked to Diabetes and Insulin Resistance

  • Acanthosis nigricans. This is a skin problem 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 small warts, 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. While there is no cure for acanthosis nigricans, losing weight may improve the skin condition. Acanthosis nigricans usually precedes diabetes and is considered to be a marker for the disease. There are other health conditions that also are known to cause acanthosis of the skin and these include acromegaly and Cushing syndromes. It is thought that this health condition is a skin manifestation of insulin resistance.
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