Diabetes and Your Skin

For people with diabetes having too much sugar in their blood for a long time can cause serious complications, including skin problems. In fact, as many as a third of people with diabetes will have a skin condition related to their disease at some time in their lives. Fortunately, most skin conditions can be prevented and successfully treated if caught early. But if not cared for properly, a minor skin condition in a person with diabetes can turn into a serious problem with potentially severe consequences.

Skin Conditions Linked to Diabetes

  • Scleredema diabeticorum: This condition causes a thickening of the skin on the back of the neck and upper back. This condition is rare but can affect people with type 2 diabetes. The treatment is to bring your blood glucose level under control. Lotions and moisturizers may help soften the skin.
  • Vitiligo: Vitiligo is a condition that affects skin coloration. With vitiligo, the special cells that make pigment (the substance that controls skin color) are destroyed, resulting in patches of discolored skin. Vitiligo often affects the chest and abdomen, but may be found on the face around the mouth, nostrils, and eyes. This condition is more commonly associated with type 1 diabetes.  Current treatment options for vitiligo include topical steroids, ultraviolet light treatments, and micropigmentation (tattooing). You should use sunscreen with a SPF of 25- 30 to prevent sunburn on the discolored skin.

Problems associated with Insulin resistance

  • Acanthosis nigricans: This is a condition that results in the darkening and thickening of certain areas of the skin especially in the skin folds. The skin becomes tan or brown and is sometimes slightly raised and described as velvety. Most often the condition, which typically looks like a small wart, appears on the sides or back of the neck, the armpits, under the breast, and groin. Occasionally the top of the knuckles will have a particularly unusual appearance. Acanthosis nigricans usually strikes people who are very overweight. There is no cure for acanthosis nigricans, but losing weight may improve the condition. Acanthosis nigricans usually precedes diabetes. There are other conditions that also are known to cause acanthosis nigricans, including acromegaly and Cushing's syndrome. This condition is a skin manifestation of insulin resistance in most people.

Problems associated with reduced blood supply to the skin

  • Skin problems linked to atherosclerosis: Atherosclerosis is the narrowing of blood vessels from a thickening of the vessel walls due to plaque buildup. While atherosclerosis most often is associated with blood vessels in or near the heart, it can affect blood vessels throughout the body, including those that supply blood to the skin. When the blood vessels supplying the skin become narrow, changes occur to the skin due to a lack of oxygen, such as hair loss, thinning and shiny skin especially on the shins, thickened and discolored toenails, and cold skin. Because blood carries the white blood cells that help fight infection, legs and feet affected by atherosclerosis heal more slowly when they are injured.
  • Necrobiosis lipoidica dibeticorum: Necrobiosis lipoidica dibeticorum is caused by changes in the collagen and fat content underneath the skin. The overlaying skin area becomes thinned and reddened. Most lesions are found on the lower parts of the legs and can ulcerate if subjected to trauma. Lesions have fairly well defined borders between normal skin and affected lesions Sometimes, Necrobiosis is itchy and painful. As long as the sores do not break open, treatment is not necessary. If the sores do break open, see your doctor for treatment.
  • Diabetic dermopathy: Also called shin spots, this condition develops as a result of changes to the blood vessels that supply the skin. Dermopathy appears as a shiny round or oval lesion of thin skin over the front lower parts of the lower legs. The patches do not hurt, although rarely they can be itchy or cause burning. Treatment generally is not necessary.
  • Digital sclerosis: Digital sclerosis is a condition in which the skin on your toes, fingers, and hands becomes thick, waxy, and tight. Stiffness of the finger joints also may occur. The treatment is to bring your blood glucose level under control. Lotions and moisturizers may help soften the skin.
  • Eruptive xanthomatosis: This condition may occur when triglycerides rise to extremely high levels. Severe resistance to insulin makes it difficult for the body to clear the fat from the blood. With extreme elevations in these blood fats, people are at risk for pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas. Eruptive xanthomas appear as firm, yellow, waxy pea-like bumps on the skin. The bumps -- which are surrounded by red halos and are itchy -- usually are found on the eyes, elbows, face and buttocks. They also can be seen on the back side of the arms and legs as well as in the creases of the extremities. Treatment for eruptive xanthomatosis consists of controlling the level of fats in your blood. The skin eruptions will resolve over several weeks. Drugs that control different types of fats in the blood (lipid-lowering drugs) may also be needed.

Diabetes and Your Skin

Skin Conditions Linked to Diabetes

Rashes, Bumps, and Blisters

  • Diabetic blisters: In rare cases, people with diabetes develop blisters that resemble burn blisters. These blisters can occur on the fingers, hands, toes, feet, legs, or forearms. Diabetic blisters usually are painless and heal on their own. They often occur in people who have severe diabetes and diabetic neuropathy. Bringing your blood glucose level under control is the treatment for this condition.
  • Disseminated: This condition causes sharply defined, ring or arc-shaped areas on the skin. These rashes most often occur on the fingers and ears, but they can occur on the chest and abdomen. The rash can be red, red-brown, or skin colored. Treatment usually is not required, but sometimes a topical steroid medication, such as hydrocortisone, may help.

Bacterial and fungus infections

  • Bacterial infections: There are different kinds of bacterial infections affecting the skin. Skin infections with the bacteria known as Staphylococcus are more common and more serious in people with poorly controlled diabetes. These bacteria can result in 'boils', an inflamed nodule from a hair follicle, which can occur in areas where hair follicles can be irritated. Other infections include styes, which are infections of the glands of the eyelids, and bacterial nail infections. Most bacterial infections require treatment with antibiotics in the form of pills.
  • Fungal infections: A yeast-like fungus called "Candida albicans" is responsible for many of the fungal infections affecting people with diabetes. Women in particular are prone to infection with this fungus in the vagina. Other commonly seen areas of infection include the corners of the mouth with what is known as "angular cheilitis," which feels like small cuts on the corners of the mouth. Fungus also can occur in between the toes and fingers and in the nails (onychomycosis). This fungus creates itchy, bright red rashes, often surrounded by tiny blisters and scales. These infections most often occur in warm, moist folds of the skin. Three common fungal infections are: jock itch (red, itchy area on the genitals and the inside of the thighs), athlete's foot (affects the skin between the toes), and ringworm (ring-shaped, scaly patches that can itch or blister and appear on the feet, groin, chest and abdomen, scalp, or nails). Medicines that kill the fungus are usually needed to treat these infections. A potentially fatal fungal infection with Mucormycosis is seen in people with diabetes. The infection usually starts in the nasal cavities and can spread to the eyes and brain.

Skin problems with multiple causes

  • Itching: Itching skin, can have many causes, such as a yeast infection, dry skin or poor blood flow. When itching is caused by poor blood flow, the lower legs and feet are most often affected. Using lotion can help to keep your skin soft and moist, and prevent itching due to dry skin.

Can These Skin Problems Be Prevented?

Keeping your diabetes under control is the most important factor in preventing the skin-related complications of diabetes. Follow your health care provider's advice regarding nutrition, exercise, and medication. Keep your blood glucose level within the range recommended by your doctor. Proper skin care can also help reduce your risk of skin problems.


Dry and cracked skin on feet: Use Hydra Balance Body Scrub ones a day and Advance Foot Repair Cream three times a day.

Dry and cracked skin on elbows: Use Hydra Balance Body Scrub ones a day and Hydra Balance Body Butter three times a day.

Dry and cracked skin on hands: Use Hydra Balance Body Scrub ones a day and Hand Cream three times a day.

Use Body Lotion or Hydra Balance Body Butter for Arms Legs and body.

 Help ulcers, which are often the result of diabetes.

  1. Warm problem area with a warm damp towel. Try and get body heat slightly elevated and your circulation improved. 
  2. Wash the infected area with a the following salt solution (1 tablespoon Dead Sea salt crystals dissolved in 1ltr cooled boiled water) 
  3. Provided the skin is not broken or bleeding, use 1 tablespoon salt, and ½ teaspoon of cooled boiled water) 
  4. Rub the salty solution gently onto the infected skin area. The above process may be repeated 3 times a day. 
  5. If the skin is broken and bleeding, only apply steps 1 & 2. Apply Epidermine Skin Corrector twice a day. 
  6. Do not wash off the salt. Cover entire area with Maris Limus mineral mud. Mud may be heated before applying. 
  7. Cover with plastic wrap. 
  8. Cover with warm towel – leave on for 20 minutes. 
  9. Wash off with warm water and gently massage with either hand, foot or body lotion

It is advisable to treat the surrounding area as well, e.g. if the skin problem is on the leg, treat the whole leg if possible.

You may consult your physician before using this steps.