Diabetes, or diabetes mellitus, is a metabolic disease characterized by elevated levels of blood glucose or sugar. Either the pancreas of a diabetic person does not produce enough insulin or the body does not utilize that insulin properly, resulting in the accumulation of glucose in the blood stream. There are two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2, the more prevalent type. More than 29 million Americans have diabetes and 86 million more have pre-diabetes, which without intervention may lead to full-blown diabetes.

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Negative Effects on the Skin

Diabetes is a chronic condition that adversely affects the way the body absorbs glucose. Long-term diabetes reduces the blood flow to the skin, which causes skin complications. Skin problems are usually the first sign of diabetes. For example, skin cuts that are slow to heal are often an early indicator of diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can worsen existing skin problems and also cause new ones.

The following are the negative effects of diabetes on the skin:

  • Bacterial infections – Diabetics are prone to bacterial infections such as boils, folliculitis, carbuncles, styes, and infections around the fingernails and toenails. Several microorganisms cause infections, the most common of which is Staphylococcus bacteria. Diabetics are more prone to infection because of their elevated blood sugar level.
  • Fungal infections – Fungal infections occur mostly in the warm and moist folds of the skin. They appear in the form of athlete’s foot, jock itch, vaginal infection, and ringworm. People with diabetes are more prone to fungal infection, especially when their blood sugar is uncontrolled.
  • Acanthosis nigricans – This is a skin condition characterized by dark, velvety pigmentation of the skin, usually in body folds around the neck, armpits, and groins. This condition is common among overweight people. Losing weight can help deter this skin condition.
  • Diabetic dermopathy – This condition manifests as scaly, brown patches caused by changes in the small blood vessels brought about by diabetes. While the patches are not painful, their appearance may be bothersome.
  • Digital sclerosis – This is a condition where the skin on the fingers and toes becomes thick and waxy, at times making the joints stiff. The condition is caused by elevated blood sugar.
  • Disseminated granuloma annulare – This condition involves red bumps that look like rashes. They normally appear on the hands and feet. They are harmless but itchy.

Most of the skin conditions associated with diabetes are harmless at first, but if left untreated, they could worsen and become more dangerous. Avoid aggravating your skin condition by controlling your blood sugar levels.