Diabetes and Dermatology

Diabetes can present special challenges for the dermatologist. And of course skin care can be an additional obstacle for you if you happen to be faced with this condition. Diabetes gives you a good reason to pamper your skin. You are more prone to skin problems like dryness. Scarring from insulin shots can affect how your body absorbs insulin. And because diabetes raises your chances of infection, even a minor skin condition can become a more serious problem.


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People with diabetes "get everything!" says Kathy Kindelan, RN, a retired nurse who has had diabetes since her 20s. If you develop even a small skin problem, she says, "you have to treat it aggressively." There are three main types of diabetes skin conditions, says Margo S. Hudson, MD, an instructor at Harvard Medical School. Skin conditions that happen mostly to people with diabetes; Common skin infections made worse by having high blood sugar, and skin problems that occur from insulin shots.

Almost all diabetic patients eventually develop skin complications from the long-term effects of diabetes mellitus on the microcirculation and on skin collagen. Cutaneous infections are more common in type 2 diabetes, whereas autoimmune-related lesions are more common in type 1. Patients who have had diabetes for many years tend to develop the most devastating skin problems. However, problems can also develop in the short term, as insulins and oral hypoglycemic drugs can also have dermal side effects. Furthermore, diabetes-related cutaneous lesions may also serve as a port of entry for secondary infection.

About a third of people with diabetes will develop skin problems at some point. In fact, some skin issues can be warning signs of diabetes. The good news is that most skin conditions can be treated easily, if they are caught early. Keeping proper control of your blood sugar (glucose) can prevent skin problems, and many other diabetes symptoms, from happening in the first place.

Although anyone can get bacterial skin infections, diabetics are more prone to them. Typical bacterial skin problems that tend to trouble people with diabetes include eyelid sties, boils, nail infections, and carbuncles — deep infections of skin and the tissue underneath. Usually, the area around the infection will be hot, red, painful, and swollen. Treatment with antibiotic creams or pills will usually clear up these skin problems.