Diabetes is called the silent killer because it is quite often that people miss its symptoms until it is too late. Of these symptoms the ones associated with skin are even more likely to be missed.
Diabetes is characterized by an increase in blood sugar (glucose) levels beyond the norm. There is a large number of skin conditions that are associated with diabetes. Sometimes it is knowledge of these skin conditions that lead to a diagnosis of diabetes. Hence keeping a watch for these conditions is recommended to high risk groups.
The good news is that with an early diagnosis most of these skin conditions can be treated and managed.
So what causes these skin problems associated with diabetes?
Some of the things that happen in human physiology during diabetes like the ones listed below are responsible for the skin conditions:
What Skin Conditions should I look out for?
Diabetes increases the vulnerability of skin to infections. Some of these conditions are listed below:
Repeated skin infections can be a sign of diabetes and warrant for a blood test. I have even found patients in whom diabetes is detected for the first time after a repeated bout of skin infections leads to blood test and hence a diabetes diagnosis.
Also due to poor blood circulation, itching can occur on various parts of body; especially on lower legs.
Diabetes also decreases the sensation on the skin and hence chances of skin getting cuts and bruises increases. These bruises if ignored can result in a more serious infection.
Sometimes diabetes patients develop thick dark raised patches on the neck, underarms, groins etc. This condition is called acanthosis nigricans.
Diabetes patients are also more susceptible to developing skin tags and in some cases white patches indicative of vitiligo.
There is a host of other conditions that diabetic patients are more susceptible to like:
Most of these conditions are curable and if not curable then manageable with proper medical care.
I am a diabetic patient – What do I do to take good care of my skin?
The most important ‘no brainer’ things to do are – keep your sugar under control and get a regular blood test.
On a parting note –
Try to reduce your stress levels and aim for an overall healthier lifestyle. Believe me this remains one of the most under-rated advice amongst all the patients that I see.
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This article is one in a series of articles on skin conditions by Dr. Sejal Saheta – MD, DNB – Dermatology and Venereology. The objective of this series is to educate the reader and help them take precautions against various skin conditions they come across on an everyday basis. These articles are not meant to be used by patients for self-diagnosis or for avoiding proper medical treatment.