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Is your skin warning you that you have diabetes?

Skin complications can be the first indication of diabetes. If your skin starts flashing warning signs like the examples below, your body’s largest organ may be trying to tell you something.

When your body is in trouble, sometimes the warning signs are right in your face —literally. Skin complications can be the first indication of diabetes. If your skin starts flashing warning signs like the examples below, your body’s largest organ may be trying to tell you something.

Although skin complications are often a package deal with a diabetes diagnosis, you can still prevent them from occurring and recurring. Diagnosing skin issues with a board-certified dermatologist is your first step toward conquering them.

These are common skin complications linked to diabetes:

Itchy, dry skin

When your body can’t make enough insulin or can't use its own insulin well, sugars accumulate in blood. This high blood glucose is recognized by your body as dangerous, so it attempts to remove the excess by increasing urination. Loss of fluid puts your body into a rationed state, causing your skin to become dry. Dry skin triggers many related surface-symptoms, such as itchiness, cracking and redness.

Bacterial infections

One sign your diabetes isn’t being managed is frequent bacterial infections. High blood glucose levels make you more prone to infection. Research shows that more than 80 percent of diabetes-related hospitalizations due to infections are from bacterial infections. Most bacterial infections require a prescription for treatment.

Fungal infections

Bacterial infections aren’t the only infections to watch for if you have been diagnosed with diabetes. Diabetes is also linked to an increase in fungal infections from organisms such as tinea and candida. Most commonly, these fungal infections will occur in the feet, but they can also form in other areas of the body including the groin area. Athlete’s foot symptoms can be seen in the spaces between the toes and on the bottom of the feet. Symptoms of fungal infections include itching, redness and flaky or scaly skin.

Skin discoloration

Be on the lookout for patches of skin with yellow, red or brown discoloration. If you see these patches, you may be suffering from a skin condition called necrobiosis lipoidica. This skin issue is often misdiagnosed at first because the hallmark bumps resemble pimples. But, over time, these bumps turn into painful patches of itchy, swollen, hardened skin. Treatment for this skin disease is tricky because it goes through cycles of activity and inactivity. Involve an experienced dermatologist to prevent and treat this serious condition.

Acanthosis nigricans

Another warning sign your body may give you when you have prediabetes is a skin condition called acanthosis nigricans. This appears as a dark area of velvety skin. Often found on the back of your neck, armpit or groin, this condition indicates you have too much insulin in your blood.

Digital sclerosis

As the name indicates, this skin condition usually strikes your digits, namely your fingers and toes. It may feel like you have pebbles in your fingertips. This condition is associated with poor blood flow and causes a hardening and thickening of skin. Sometimes your joints can feel stiff. Digital sclerosis isn’t limited to fingers and toes. It can also develop on your face, chest, upper back, neck and shoulders. Digital sclerosis is treatable, but you have to get your blood sugar under control for symptoms to go away.

Diabetic ulcers

One of the most dangerous results of high blood sugar is the effect on your circulatory system. In people with diabetes, prolonged high blood sugar levels damage blood vessels, leading to plaque formations. These plaque formations inhibit the delivery of blood to neighboring cells. Poor circulation and nerve damage can make it hard for your body to heal wounds. These open wounds are called diabetic ulcers.


One of the rarer skin complications linked to diabetes is blisters on the hands, legs, feet and forearms that appear suddenly. Those with this skin complication may see a large blister, a group of blisters or both. Although these blisters are not painful, they must be treated with acute care because they can lead to secondary infections. Diabetic blisters require a board-certified dermatologist to examine them to prevent more serious skin complications.

Don’t ignore warning signs

Skin complications are just that – complicated. Still, heeding their warning can save you from a life of diabetic-related complications.

The board-certified dermatologists at Gardens Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery Center are skilled at diagnosing and treating diabetes-related skin conditions to keep your skin and body healthy. If you think you might be experiencing some of the above warning signs, make an appointment so you can get a professional opinion, ask any questions you might have and discuss your concerns.

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