Diabetes affects many organs in the body, and the skin, the largest organ in the human body, isn’t exempt.
Our skin is a pretty nifty organ. Not only does it serve as a barrier to protect our internal organs, it helps regulate our body temperature by increasing the production of sweat, which keeps us cool on hot humid days. Along with our bones and muscles, it’s the face we show to the world each day.
And skin provides us with one of our most important senses, the sense of touch. Many of us can imagine what it would be like to lose our sight or hearing, but to not be able to feel would be truly devastating.
That is why it is so important for people with diabetes to keep their blood glucose in control and to keep their skin clean and well moisturized.
Often we don’t include skin problems, when we talk about the complications of diabetes, but over 30% of people with diabetes will contract some type of skin problem in their lifetime. For some people, a skin condition known as acanthosis nigricans is how their diabetes was diagnosed.
Luckily, many skin conditions are harmless and most respond easily to treatment.
Many people with poorly controlled blood sugars complain of itching. The culprit can be dry skin, poor circulation or yeast infections.
- In addition to good blood glucose control, limiting shower time and using a mositurinzing skin cream after bathing can help.
- Yeast infections thrive in moist, warm areas of the skin folds such as the arm pits, breasts, groin and between the toes. Your doctor can prescribe a fungicide to treat the infection.
Other skin conditions, many with difficult to pronounce names—such as diabetic dermopathy or necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum (NLD)—are a result of changes in the small blood vessels. Diabetic dermopathy and NLD appear as scaly patches that are brown or red in color; although unlike the dermatitits of diabetic dermopathy, NLD can become painful and itchy with open sores.
To learn more about the different types of skin problems that can result from diabetes, visit the American Diabetes Association’s web page on skin complications.Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joandrejohansen/