image of Women exercising fighting diabetes by Diabetes Insight Cork Ireland

A recent review published in the Archives of Dermatology from more than two dozen studies world wide, linked people suffering from severe psoriasis with a 46% increased risk of developing diabetes. It is believed that chronic inflammation that comes with psoriasis maybe linked with an increase in developing diabetes, as well as heart disease and stroke. But how this is known is not entirely sure. It was also recognised within the review that people who suffer from psoriasis are a lot more likely to be depressed, therefore less physically active, which may increase their risk of developing diabetes.
It is not widely recognised that many people with diabetes suffer from a variety of skin conditions, as many as 33% will suffer from a skin condition at some point in their lives. Some of the most common skin conditions that people with diabetes suffer from are bacterial and fungal infections. Localized itching is also common in people with diabetes due to a yeast infection, dry skin and poor circulation. Diabetes brings its own specific skin conditions which are as follows:

  • Diabetic Dermopathy:  Diabetes can cause changes in the small blood vessels which can lead to brown scaly patches on the skin. They are often mistaken for age spots, occur mainly in the legs and are harmless.
  • Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticorum: These spots can be very similar to diabetic Dermopathy but can be painful, red and itchy. They occur mostly in women, and only need to be treated if they become open and sore.
  • Atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis is a thickening of the blood vessels which can lead to poor circulation in the lower limbs. Extremities can become hairless, thin, cool, and shiny. The toes become cold and toenails can thicken and discolor. Exercise causes pain in the calf muscles because the muscles are not getting enough oxygen. Because circulation is so poor, if an injury is sustained, it potentially can become more serious like an ulcer or develop an infection.
  • Acanthosis Nigricans: This is a condition in which tan or brown raised areas appear on the sides of the neck, armpits, and groin. Sometimes they also occur on the hands, elbows, and knees. Acanthosis nigricans usually occurs in people who are very overweight and suffer from insulin resistance, as it is a build up of insulin within the body that causes the tan or brown raised areas.
  • Digital Sclerosis: Sometimes, people with diabetes develop tight, thick, waxy skin on the backs of their hands, toes and forehead. The finger joints can also become stiff and can no longer move the way they should. It is more common in people with Type 1 Diabetes and can be controlled with good blood sugar level control
  • Diabetic Blisters (Bullosis Diabeticorum): People with diabetes can develop blisters which occur in the extremities of the hands and feet. They occur more in those with poor control of blood sugars and usually disappear when blood sugars return to normal.
  • Eruptive Xanthomatosis: This condition usually exists in those with poor control of their blood glucose levels, are male and have type 1 diabetes. It consists of firm, yellow, pea-like enlargements in the skin which may become red and itch. It is most often seen on the backs of hands, feet, arms, legs, and buttocks. The condition usually disappears when blood sugar levels are controlled.

If anyone is concerned or worried about skin problems and diabetes, please contact your GP or your diabetes team for an assessment and further information. This post is only to highlight skin issues in diabetes, not as a replacement for a consultation. You can also contact us here at Diabetes Insight by filling in the contact form below:

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