Diabetes and Dermatology, the two ‘Ds’ do go hand in hand. Skin is one of the last organs on the mind of a diabetic patient, the focus being centred more on the eyes, kidneys, heart and blood vessels. But the skin gets affected in more than one way in an individual with untreated / uncontrolled diabetes. In fact, very often there are patients who visit a dermatologist with severe bacterial or fungal infections only to be detected with silent, underlying diabetes.

Deep-seated and recurrent boils, severe ringworm infections, infection of the nails, recurrent yeast infections of the genitalia are skin infections seen commonly in diabetics. In untreated / uncontrolled diabetics, these infections tend to be more prolonged than their non-diabetic counterparts.

The skin tends to get very itchy in diabetes. The itching could be due to dry skin, a yeast infection or poor blood flow.  Excessive scratching itself can cause skin infections which may quickly spread in the deeper skin and underlying soft tissues in some cases.

Out-growths of skin around the neck and arm pits (skin tags) and thickening with darkening of skin around the neck (acanthosis nigricans) are other common skin changes seen in people with diabetes, especially those who are obese.

There are a host of other skin conditions that are may occur in diabetic individuals (diabetic blisters, shin spots, necrobiosis lipoidica, eruptive xanthomas, granuloma annulare, vitiligo, digital sclerosis).

What is of importance is recognising the fact that the skin is prone to certain changes / conditions in those with diabetes. A lot of times, skin infections are taken very lightly and are neglected, only to develop into a severe infection later. In order to avoid skin complications, the following skin care regime would be useful:

  • Daily bathing and drying the body completely after shower, with special attention to body folds; use of a dusting powder would be useful to keep these areas dry.
  • Using a moisturising lotion for the whole body to avoid dryness and itching.
  • Wearing loose cotton clothes that are comfortable and allow the skin to breathe.
  • Regular inspection of the body (especially feet) to look for cuts / bruises / rashes / boils. In case any of these are found, to consult a dermatologist immediately for proper diagnosis and treatment; DO NOT NEGLECT.

Lastly, it should be upto the individual to manage his or her diabetes in the best manner possible so as to avoid further complications. After all, prevention is better than cure!!

Dr. Rashmi Wighe
M.D. (Dermatology), D.D.V, P.G.D.C.R