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What to Know About Diabetes

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are a relatively common blood disorder in the United States. Each type of diabetes mellitus relates to the amount of insulin produced in the body. Insulin is a necessary agent in the maintenance and regulation of glucose levels in the bloodstream. As we eat food, our blood sugar levels rise and fall, however, those without diabetes don’t need to consider this process, as their body produces insulin to regulate this process automatically. For those with diabetes, this blood disease requires close monitoring and management:

  • Type 1 diabetes often arises in childhood and is less common. The first type of diabetes mellitus refers to the instance of the body not producing enough insulin to regulate blood glucose levels. A patient with diabetes must administer insulin themselves as needed.  
  • Type 2 diabetes tends to occur later in life and often comes on in conjunction with unhealthy lifestyle habits like a poor diet and sedentary existence. Some insulin is produced but over time, the body grows resistant to it and it is eventually not enough to regulate blood sugar. 

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are serious conditions, causing patients stress and other medical complications. They also take their toll on the economic health care system. 

  • The American Diabetes Association estimated that over 34 million Americans have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. 
  • Every year, 1.5 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes. 

Rest assured, though. Diabetes is manageable with some additional care and attention. If it isn’t managed with the help of a healthcare professional, it can cause other symptoms to arise within the physical body. Let’s take a look at one of the more common symptoms in people with diabetes. 

How does diabetes affect the skin? 

Think about how your skin can look after a few days of eating sugary foods or not drinking enough water. Our skin reflects what is going on inside the body. Someone with diabetes is constantly living with fluctuating blood sugar levels and may also be taking certain medications to treat other diabetes symptoms. 

All of this plays into the skin’s health as well. It isn’t uncommon for an individual with diabetes to develop a skin disease at some point in life. These three factors can play a role in skin deterioration or disease: 

  • Dehydration

    Skin cells are made of water and need it to properly replicate, heal injuries and keep our skin barrier strong enough to protect us from bad bacteria and viruses. Diabetes, and often the medication associated with it, can make one urinate more frequently or use an abundance of water to try and reach equilibrium. 
  • Inflammation

    As a blood disease, diabetes affects the vessels and arteries that shuttle around our oxygenated blood. With elevated blood glucose levels, these arteries and blood vessels become damaged over time and can then inhibit the flow of healthy blood. Inflammation is bound to occur and can happen in the extremities, causing skin to appear red, bruised, purple or white. 
  • Skin infection

    Because diabetes causes poor circulation and nerve damage, skin that gets injured may be less capable of healing itself. Some skin signs of diabetes are actually a result of this issue and can manifest in bacterial infections, ulcers or other diabetic skin conditions. 

Out of these imbalances in the body, a host of acute to chronic skin issues may arise. Let’s take a closer look. 


Psoriasis is a common skin condition in the United States that can occur separately from diabetes, and often does. Psoriasis is characterized by shiny, purple or red papules that crop up all over the body. These flare-ups may be acute and stress-related or chronic and difficult to quell. This study shows links between psoriasis and diabetes, citing that the link is more common with severe cases of psoriasis. 

Acanthosis Nigricans

Acanthosis Nigricans present dark patches on the neck. They may also appear on the groin, elbows or hands. This is an obvious sign of insulin resistance and is frequently one of the first signs of type 2 diabetes. Those experiencing obesity are more likely to develop Acanthosis Nigricans and losing weight may be a helpful tactic in treating this skin disorder. 

Allergic Rash

Unfortunately for many, insulin and other diabetes medications can cause allergic reactions. Some flare ups may be hardly noticeable whereas others can be uncomfortable, painful and inhibit quality of life. Diabetes patients who take medication may experience any of the following: 

  • Rash
  • Itchiness
  • Red patches
  • Irritation mark at the injection site for those using injectable medication
  • Flaking

Some common diabetes medications are as follows: 

  • Precose
  • Glyset
  • Kazano
  • Glucovance
  • Cycloset

Anyone with diabetes should consider using good moisturizers to keep skin healthy, hydrated and soothed. If you’ve recently switched medication and notice a new skin condition, consult with your dermatologist or doctor immediately. 

Diabetic Blisters 

This is one of the more mysterious skin signs of diabetes. Doctors and researchers are still unsure as to what causes diabetic blisters to form on the hands, legs, arms and feet. Some key things to note about diabetic blisters are: 

  • They are usually painless. They don’t hurt most people but look like they would be painful. 
  • More common in those with comorbidity of diabetic neuropathy (a group of nerve disorders) and diabetes. 
  • They can come and go with blood sugar levels. If one gets blood sugar back under control, it’s likely that the blisters will subside.

Necrobiosis Lipoidica 

Necrobiosis Lipoidica is a rash that occurs on the lower legs as a result of a decline in collagen production. This skin condition can also cause the thickening of artery walls, skin-colored spots or purple papules. 

Waxy Skin 

A lack of circulation is the cause of this eerie looking skin disorder. Waxy-looking skin can appear anywhere on the body but most typically occurs on the extremities, as blood flow often struggles to get there.  Consider the following if you suspect you may be experiencing this diabaetic skin sign: 

  • Stuff joints can also occur in conjunction with waxy skin. 
  • Can happen on the hands, fingers or other places including the arms and upper body
  • Less likely to occur on the knees, ankles and elbows 
  • Maintaining blood sugar levels helps promote regular circulation and decrease the risk of this skin condition.
  • Exercise or physical therapy may be what the doctor orders to help this waxy appearance go down.  

Diabetic Dermopathy

This skin condition is marked by small lesions that appear on the bony parts of the body, like the shins. Spots can be tan, pink, or red in color and often appear in scaly patches. Some medical professionals speculate that the cause of diabetic dermopathy is trauma to the legs that is unhealed due to poor circulation. These shin spots may require medical treatment if they become infected. 

Fungal Infection

People with diabetes are more susceptible to fungal infections such as the following: 

  • Candida albicans. This skin disease causes red, itchy rashes that sometimes contain blisters or scales. Obese or overweight patients may be more likely to develop andida albicans because it tends to flourish in warm, dark folds of the skin. 
  • Ringworm. Relatively common and easy to get rid of, ringworm is another fungal infection someone with diabetes may get. It’s not uncommon for ringworm to crop up in moist places, like the armpits. 
  • Athlete’s foot. A hallmark of athletes’ feet is itchy skin in between the toes or on the feet. This can usually be cured with over-the-counter lotion targeting fungal infections, like lotrimin. 
  • Vaginal yeast infection. While easily treatable, vaginal yeast infections can be painful and irritating. Fungus is attracted to warm, dark, moist environments and can flourish off of a sugar inbalance. 

Care and Maintenance are Key

Working together with a trusted Orlando physician is a surefire way to stay on top of both types of diabetes. As you move through various phases of life, it’s likely that your personal experience with diabetes will also change. Working with a physician who is familiar with your medical history, your preferences and your lifestyle habits can help them make better-informed decisions regarding your care. 

Use UCF Health’s patient portal to find a doctor near you. Our easy-to-use online scheduling tool makes it simple to get in and see your physician whenever you need.