More often than not, diabetes is accompanied by a lot of afflictions affecting various parts of the body. Here's an insight into diabetes and skin problems that accompany it.
We all know that diabetes is all about blood sugar levels going haywire, and most of us know that this is caused due to the body’s inability to either produce or respond to insulin. However, what many of us are not aware of is the fact that diabetes is not just an issue with insulin and unregulated blood sugar levels. These two chief factors, which are characteristically synonymous with the disease itself, lead to the occurrence of many more biological complications and physical discomfort. That being said, I wouldn’t be incorrect in stating that diabetes is a group of physical conditions that are brought about by improper metabolism of sugar in the body. Certain skin problems are an inevitable aspect of diabetes which are suffered by a significant majority of individuals who are diagnosed with this metabolic disease. Come, let’s take a quick look at the various skin problems that are typically related to diabetes.
Skin Disorders in Diabetics
As previously mentioned, diabetes is a metabolic condition and the symptoms are not restricted to just one part of the entire anatomy. We all know that all physiological functions are interrelated and when one function gets hit, all other functions feel the heat. Speaking of diabetes, when your body becomes incapable of metabolizing glucose, the blood glucose levels rise to detrimental levels. Since blood, the circulatory system and metabolism are such anatomical aspects that consistently affect each and every part and function of the body, any condition affecting these areas are bound to have significant consequences for the rest of the body. Certain typical skin problems are very common in diabetes patients and they are as follows:-
Bacterial and Fungal Skin Infections
Owing to lowered immunity due to metabolic dysfunction, a lot of opportunistic microbial pathogens find it easy to invade and infect a diabetic individual. The skin is the first level of attack and skin infections caused by bacteria, fungi and yeast are common in diabetic individuals as blood circulation becomes sluggish, and this causes the skin to become ill nourished, making it an easy target for microscopic organisms.
Though not very common in type 1 diabetes, this dermal condition is mostly seen in people with type 2 diabetes. This condition is characterized by thickening of the dermal layer at specific sites, mostly on the back of the neck and the upper back. Type 2 diabetes and the various skin problems associated with it also include bacterial and fungal infections, dry skin conditions and various skin eruptions and dermal conditions that cause certain localized areas to darken and appear raised.
Vitiligo and Acanthosis nigricans are two very common skin conditions that affect diabetics. In the former, patches of skin at different body locations start getting lighter than their surroundings owing to abnormal destruction of melanocytes. The latter condition is characterized by darkening and thickening of skin areas that form dermal folds, such as elbow joints, neck, breasts, groin, underarms, etc.
Also known as shin spots, this condition is characterized by the appearance of smooth, roundish, scaly patches which are light brownish in color on the shins. These are caused by vascular changes to the small vessels in the legs and feet and the spots are painless and self-healing. Controlling blood sugar automatically makes them disappear.
Atherosclerosis and Diabetic Neuropathy
This is one of the most harrowing dermal conditions suffered by diabetics. The skin of the legs become thin, hairless and the surface becomes exceptionally smooth as it get stretched in response to a thickening of leg arteries. This causes the vascular space carrying blood to become narrower, leading to insufficient blood flow in the legs. The result is usually seen as diminished sensation in the legs and growing indifference to sensations of hot, cold or pain. These latter symptoms are also common to diabetic neuropathy where uncontrolled blood sugar levels cause considerable damage to nerves.
This condition is characterized by an accumulation of fatty cells around the site of insulin injection, especially when the insulin being used is derived from beef or pork. However, with human insulin replacing animal insulin lately, the instances of this condition have dwindled considerably.
Other Diabetic Dermal Conditions
Various eruptions and growths on the skin such as Eruptive Xanthomatosis, Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticorum, Disseminated Granuloma Annulare, Digital Sclerosis, diabetic blisters and leg rashes are common diabetes induced skin problems. Dry and itchy skin conditions can develop owing to poor localized blood circulation and yeast infections. Weeping sores and slow-healing skin wounds and lesions are also common and are usually brought on by lowered immunity and deteriorated natural healing factor of a diabetes-stricken body.
Groundbreaking improvements in the field of medicine for controlling blood sugar and enhancing the body’s insulin uptake coupled with advanced dermal care products and procedures have made it easy to manage diabetes and treat associated dermal conditions. While controlling blood sugar is the only way to get complete respite from these diabetes related dermal conditions, medicated lotions, moisturizers and creams for topical application can be used to relieve dermal discomforts such as itchiness, dryness and to soften thickened, scaly skin patches. Regular exercise helps keep the blood circulating along all vascular channels and this goes a long way in mitigating the effects of diabetic neuropathy and atherosclerosis.