Diabetes Rash

Diabetes Rash

There isn’t just one type of diabetes rash.  Instead, diabetics can develop a number of different skin conditions, some of which look like rashes.  It is estimated that about one third of all diabetics will have some type of skin condition as part of their condition.

Most skin rashes in diabetes are the direct result of having out of control diabetes that can be managed by getting the diabetes under good control.  This means checking the blood sugars regularly and following the doctor’s orders in treating the diabetes with medications.

Here are some common skin conditions and rashes seen in diabetes:
Bacterial skin infections

Bacterial skin infections.

It is possible to get a bacterial skin infection even if you don’t have diabetes but your chances of having bacterial skin conditions is higher if you have diabetes. The usual bacterial infections seen in diabetics include nailbed infections, boils, carbuncles, and styes in the eyelids. It is also possible for these infections to go inward and cause infection of internal structures as well.  If you have a bacterial skin infection, the common symptoms include having a red, swollen, painful, and hot area on the skin.  Most of these rashes are minor and can be managed with antibiotic ointments, creams, or pills.

Fungal skin infections.

Fungi thrive in conditions of high blood sugar, which places diabetics at a higher risk of getting a rash from a fungal skin infection. Most of these infections are the result of a Candida albicans infection; however, other yeast and fungal organisms can be involved.  The rash is usually itchy and red and may have blisters or scales around the major area of infection.  Fungal skin infections are more common in places on the body that are moist and warm, such as between the toes, under skin folds, and in the arm pits. The groin area can also be involved.  In such cases, it is referred to as “jock itch” and occurs primarily in men.   Medications that can be given orally or topically can control this type of diabetic rash.  Keeping the skin clean and dry at all times can also help prevent these types of rashes from occurring.

Unspecified Itching.

Diabetics have an increased risk of having skin that is itchy. The itchiness can be due to dry skin, poor circulation, or a yeast infection, among others.  When the problem is related to poor circulation, the itchiest areas tend to be around the lower legs, which are hit the worst when the circulation is poor. You can treat this by having fewer baths and by using a mild skin soap when bathing.  Moisturizers and lotions can help as well but it shouldn’t be used between the toes as this can increase the wetness to the affected areas.

Neuropathy-Related Skin conditions.

Diabetics who do not have their blood sugars in good control can develop nerve damage that is also referred to as diabetic neuropathy. There is a burning sensation or numbness to the toes and then the feet.  You can have problems with your skin when having neuropathy because you can easily step on something that causes a skin lesion and won’t feel it until it is too late.  Diabetics should check their feet daily for signs of a rash or other injury to the skin.

Diabetic blisters

Diabetic blisters.

This is an uncommon complication of diabetics and is also referred to as bullosis diabeticorum. The blisters tend to be more common on the backs of the hands, fingers, feet, toes, forearms, and legs.  They are similar to the type of blisters you get from a burn and occur at a higher rate in diabetics who have diabetic neuropathy.  The blisters are different from burn-related blisters in that they are not painful.  They do not need any treatment and usually resolve after a couple of weeks.  The only way to treat these blisters is to have good blood glucose control.

Eruptive Xanthomatosis.

Eruptive xanthomatosis is a skin condition cause by having poor glucose control in diabetes. The lesions look like yellow peas that are firm and located beneath the skin.  There is usually a red halo around the bump and the lesions usually are itchy.  They are more common on the backs of the hands, the buttocks, the arms, and the legs.  This is more commonly occurring in male diabetics who have elevated cholesterol levels, elevated triglyceride levels, and poor glucose control from type 1 diabetes.  The only way to treat this type of diabetic skin rash is to keep the blood sugar in good control.  You may also have to take medications that lower the cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels.

Digital Sclerosis

This affects about 33 percent of all type 1 diabetics. It involves having very thick, waxy, and tight skin that occurs on the backs of the diabetic’s hands.  It causes the finger joints to become stiff and using the hands becomes difficult.  It can also affect the skin on the forehead and on the toes.  It may result in stiffness of the ankles, knees, or elbows.  The only way to treat this diabetic rash is to have the blood sugars in good control and to use moisturizer on the skin.

Disseminated granuloma annulare.

This is a skin rash in diabetics that results in bumpy, raised, or ring-like spots, which are red, red-brown, or flesh-colored. It is most commonly seen in the ears and fingers of diabetics.  In some cases, the rash itches.  There is no treatment for the condition that usually resolves on its own.  Topical corticosteroid cream can be used if the rash is itchy.

Allergic reactions.

Diabetics are more likely to develop an allergic skin reaction to various medications, insect bites, or foods.  Skin rashes can also occur near the insulin injection sites, especially if the diabetic didn’t rotate the insulin injection sites enough.  These rashes are likely to be itchy and can be treated with antihistamines and topical corticosteroid creams or ointments.  Rarely would oral corticosteroids be used.

  1. Diabetic skin conditions. http://www.everydayhealth.com/diabetes-pictures/10-diabetic-skin-problems.aspx#11.
  2. Diabetic skin conditions. http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/skin-problems?page=3#1.
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