If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t produce insulin, doesn’t produce enough of it, or doesn’t process it well. You need insulin to change food into energy, so when it's absent or malfunctioning, your whole body suffers, including your skin.
At Easton Dermatology Associates in Easton and Salisbury, Maryland, our team of skin specialists understand the direct connection between diabetes and skin health and can help you recognize the signs that your skin problems may be related to your chronic condition. Here’s what you need to know.
How diabetes affects skin health
When you eat a meal, your body breaks down the food and turns it into glucose, a type of sugar, and releases it into your bloodstream. Once your blood sugar reaches a certain level, it triggers a response in your pancreas to send insulin, which allows the sugar to leave your blood and enter your cells.
Diabetes interferes with your insulin production, which means that the sugar stays in your blood. High blood sugar, especially if sustained, causes a long list of health problems, including nerve damage, heart disease, kidney problems, and eye damage. It can also lead to several skin conditions.
Poor circulation and uncontrolled high blood sugar make it difficult for your skin to maintain its protective barrier and fight off pathogens, so people with diabetes are far more susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections than those without diabetes.
Types of skin conditions related to diabetes
Often, one of the first symptoms of diabetes appears on the skin. Here are some of the diabetes-related skin conditions you may get.
- Fungal infections: athlete’s foot and jock itch
- Bacterial infections: boils, styes, carbuncles, and nail infections
- Dry skin: itchy and flaky
- Diabetic dermopathy: scaly brown patches on the legs
- Acanthosis nigricans: raised brown patches on the neck, groin, and armpits
- Digital sclerosis: thick, waxy skin on the back of the hands
Although those are the most common skin reactions to diabetes, others are rarer and typically occur when the disease is severe. Allergic reactions to diabetes medications or insulin can also occur at the site of injections.
Diabetic skin care
The best thing you can do for your skin is control your blood sugar. Keeping it stable helps prevent and solve many problems. Beyond that, here are some guidelines for caring for your diabetic skin:
- Clean your skin well to keep bacteria and fungi at bay
- Make sure to dry your skin well
- Limit very hot water, including baths, showers, handwashing, and dishwashing
- Don’t take bubble baths
- Moisturize with lotion
- Don’t apply lotion between your toes
- Inspect your skin daily for cuts and abrasions and treat them immediately
- Use shampoo and soap formulated for sensitive skin
Managing diabetes is a big job, and it helps to work with your primary care physician to manage your disease. In the same way, our specialists at Easton Dermatology Associates would love to partner with you as your skin team to keep a close eye on your skin and catch and treat any problems early.
If you have diabetes-related skin issues, don’t try to solve them alone. Schedule an appointment at Easton Dermatology Associates in Easton or Salisbury, Maryland, today.