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Diabetes & associated skin conditions

Your skin is the first line of defense. Healthy, intact skin protects bacteria from entering your body. Persons with diabetes should be especially protective of their skin, as elevated blood sugars can lead to dehydration and may cause excessively dry skin. This dry skin, if left untreated, may result in cracks, cuts, or tears in the skin, raising the risk of infection.

Skin care should include a daily inspection of your feet, checking areas that are prone to get sweaty and damp on a daily basis. Showers should be lukewarm in temperature, as excessively hot water tends to dry skin out. Daily moisturizer should be used to prevent areas from becoming cracked/cut/torn (but avoid putting lotion between toes, as this area is prone to excessive moisture). Stay hydrated and keep your blood glucose levels under control. Finally, make sure your healthcare provider checks your feet during your office visits (at least twice annually). Notify your doctor if you see any changes in your skin, such as bumps, blisters, nonhealing sores. Early treatment lowers the risk of any permanent complications.

Common skin conditions

Acanthosis nigricans is a skin condition in which the skin on your neck, armpits and groin thickens and turns brown in color. It may look like a dirty area but is actually caused by insulin resistance. Treatment includes weight loss, and diabetes medications, which when combined lead to better insulin utilization.

Disseminated granuloma annulare is a condition that causes red/brown raised rings on the skin. Often, they show up on fingers, ears, and lower legs. Treatment usually includes topical steroid creams.

Fungal infections often occur in areas that are prone to getting hot and sweaty, such as armpits, under breasts, between fingers and toes, or in the groin area. Treatment options include topical creams.

Digital sclerosis is a skin condition that occurs in about 1/3 of persons with Type 1 diabetes. Elevated/uncontrolled blood sugars result in the skin on the back of the hands to become thick, waxy and tight. The finger joints may also become stiff and result in decreased movement. Treatment includes blood sugar control.

In closing, as the summer months bring hot temperatures, be sure to stay hydrated, protect your skin from the elements, and keep blood glucose levels under control.


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