Common Diabetic Disorders of the Skin

In 2021, it was reported that 1 in 22 adults in Africa, aged between 20 and 79, are living with diabetes. This equates to 24 million people. (1)

If you have diabetes, you are likely to develop certain skin problems. Some skin conditions you may be prone to include, but are not limited to, the following:

Itchy Skin

Because people with diabetes often have dry skin, there is a tendency for that dryness to also cause itching. Scratching itchy skin open, is where the greater concern lies because diabetics are more prone to infection. (2) High blood sugar from diabetes can affect the body’s immune system, impairing the ability of white blood cells to come to the infection area, remain in the infected area, and ultimately kill the infection-causing organisms. (3)

Foot Ulcers

This is also known as Diabetes Foot Syndrome or Diabetic Foot Ulcer (DFU). A diabetic foot ulcer is an open sore or wound that occurs in approximately 15 percent of patients with diabetes, and is commonly found on the bottom of or underneath the foot. (4) These sores can start with nothing more than a small scrape or cut. This develops into a full-blown ulcer because of poor blood flow that makes it harder for wounds to heal and also because you may not be able to feel sensations properly because of nerve damage, also caused by diabetes. (5)

Acanthosis nigricans

This is a skin condition that causes a dark discoloration in body folds and creases. It is characterized by dark, velvety patches, especially in the armpits, groin and neck. (6) It is not contagious and should resolve by treating your diabetes.

Caring for your diabetic skin

Many skin disorders, including the three above, as well as skin complications associated with diabetes, can be prevented and/or treated with proper care. Try these for improved self-care:

  • Manage your diabetes properly in consultation with your doctor.
  • Check your skin every single day for signs of rashes, redness, infections or sores.
  • Keep your skin clean.
  • Avoid very hot water, especially soaking in a hot bath.
  • Prevent dry skin by moisturizing and drinking lots of water.
  • Treat cuts right away.
  • Shower instead of bath, and use warm (not hot) water and moisturizing soap
  • Pat skin dry with a clean towel (don’t rub), making sure to dry between skin folds, fingers and toes.
  • See a dermatologist (skin doctor) about skin problems if you are not able to solve them yourself.











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