Do you have diabetes? Diabetes is the fastest growing long-term (chronic) disease, affecting millions of people worldwide. In the United States, more than 25 million people have diabetes. About 75% of them suffer from type 2 diabetes, linked to obesity or overweight. Researchers believe the diabetes epidemic will intensify and predict that by 2050, one in three Americans will have diabetes.
About a third of people with diabetes will develop skin problems such as skin sores or a rash on their legs. In fact, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), certain skin conditions can be warning signs of diabetes in undiagnosed people. The good news is that most diabetes-related skin problems can be prevented or easily treated if caught early.
Keeping your blood sugar (glucose) in proper control can prevent diabetes-related skin problems and many other symptoms of diabetes.
Many diabetic skin problems can occur in healthy people, but people with diabetes are at much higher risk. Diabetes-related skin problems include:
- Bacterial infections
- Diabetes rash
- Diabetic bulbs
- Diabetic dermopathy
- Eruptive xanthomatosis
- fungal infections
- Diabetic lipoid necrobiosis
- Itchy skin
Controlling your blood sugar is the first step in preventing and treating diabetes-related skin problems. When diabetes affects your skin, causing skin lesions or a rash, it’s a sign that your blood sugar is too high.
If you notice any skin issues, it’s time to talk to your doctor. Get tested for diabetes if you haven’t been diagnosed yet. Work with your doctor and diabetes nurse educator to learn how to control your diabetes with diet, exercise, and medication, if needed.
Also, see a dermatologist for any diabetes-related skin concerns. Some diabetic skin problems don’t seem too serious, but can lead to future complications if left untreated.
“For the most part, controlling diabetes can help with associated skin issues,” says Justin Ko, MD, medical director and chief of medical dermatology at Stanford Health Care in Redwood City, Calif. “I always believe that my diabetic patients take aggressive care of their skin and their health in general. For the skin, hydration, daily checking of the feet and legs for possible blisters, sores and skin tears (especially between the toes) and nail care are extremely important. Toenail and foot fungus can cause skin to crack and break, allowing bacteria to enter and cause infection.