Specific Diabetes Skin Complications?
QUESTION: I have heard that there are some specific diabetes skin complications. I want to know: what are they?
I want also to know if one can recognize easily that is something to do with diabetes when noticing some skin problems.
Are these skin complications noticed after one has been diagnosed with diabetes (several years after)? Or they are among the symptoms of diabetes. I really got confused here.
I have read that when someone has certain skin problems, might be because of diabetes (although it is not diagnosed). On the other hand, I have read that after being diagnosed, one diabetic can have many problems with skin. What is this all about? Can anybody explain it?ANSWER
: Hi there,
You are absolutely right, there are a lot of skin problems related to diabetes. These skin problems are observed when someone is not controlling his/her blood sugar well.
The constant elevation of the blood sugar and respectively, the cholesterol level are causing these problems. In addition, if turn your blood glucose and cholesterol back to normal levels, the skin problems are going to disappear.Particularly, the most common skin problems caused by diabetes are sclerodermia diabeticorum, vitiligo, redness and rushes caused by bacterial or fungal infections.
Sclerodermia diabeticorum is characterized by increased thickness of the skin. This hyper-thick skin is situated at the back of the neck and at the upper part of the neck. When you bring your blood glucose back to normal level again, this condition can be reversed.
With regards to Vitiligo, I could say that it is a condition during which you are losing the normal color of your skin, which, in turn, becomes lighter.
Generally, the skin in the abdomen is the part that turns pale in patients with vitiligo. The bad thing in here is that the normal color of the skin won’t return when your turn your blood glucose back to normal as this condition is irreversible.
This is because the cells which are producing melanin (the substance which is making the color of your skin) are destroyed because of the elevated blood glucose level.
As you probably know, the glucose is very important for the organism because it is providing energy and besides this it is an osmotic substance.
When there is more glucose in your blood, it goes directly to the cells. However, the cells are not able to use all this glucose and it just stays in the cells
and waits to be metabolized.
The bad thing in here is that the glucose attracts water, which is increasing the amount of water in the cells too. This is pretty dangerous because the size of the cell increases. At some point, the cell is not able to store all the water and because of this the cell cracks.
You don’t have to worry about vitiligo because there are a lot of options for its treatment. All you have to do is to try to keep your blood glucose in normal ranges and to protect the paled skin from the sun’s effect.
As I mentioned when the blood glucose is elevated, more glucose goes into the cells. If these cells are situated in the skin, they become a pretty good environment for the development of bacteria and fungi.
As you probably know, all the bacteria and fungi require glucose for energy which is provided in this case by the skin cells.
When the development of the bacteria begins, rushes and blotches are appearing. There is no specific place for the development of this infection and because of this, it can happen everywhere on the skin.
The treatment of this condition is easy and it is combined of two things: reducing the blood glucose level and using antibiotics. You have to know that before the usage of antibiotic, your doctor is supposed to determinate the exact type of bacteria or fungi which is causing the infection.
Keep in mind that these skin problems are diagnosed only by a specialist, because sometimes it is hard to find the exact microrganism which is causing them.
Furthermore, these conditions are observed not only in patients with diabetes. There are several other diseases which are able to cause the development of those conditions.
Next, these conditions are not early symptoms of diabetes. The exact cause of them is the long period of bad blood sugar control.
In purpose to prevent these conditions and others, you have to take you medications and to check your blood glucose regularly. If you notice that your blood glucose is higher than normal no matter the treatment, you should inform your doctor and he will make adjustments in the drug dose, and give specific extra advice.
All the best!
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Written by Dr.Albana Greca Sejdini, Md, MMedSc
Medically reviewed by Dr.Ruden Cakoni, MD, Endocrinologist