November 10


Type 2 Diabetes and Skin: Conditions, Prevention and Treatment

By Gabriela

November 10, 2021

Every single person might have a bacterial skin infection. However, those who have diabetes are actually more prone to these infections. Usually, skin complications occur in case of high blood glucose levels, and they are the first sign of diabetes.

According to estimation around 1/3 of individuals with diabetes have skin conditions either influenced by the condition or related to the condition.

So, the best treatment and prevention is managing blood glucose levels.

The Impact of Type 2 Diabetes on Skin Health

When we have too high blood glucose levels for an extended period, there are a few changes that occur in our bodies and impact the health of our skin.

Blood glucose is removed from our bodies through our urine. In the case of excess blood glucose, urination increases and that leads to dry skin and dehydration.

Furthermore, high blood glucose levels can cause inflammation, which after a certain period will overstimulate or dull the immune response.

High blood glucose levels might also lead to blood vessel damage and nerve damage which can lower circulation. The inadequate flow of blood might alter the structure of our skin, mainly its collagen.

Without healthy networks of collagen, our skin might become brittle and stiff. Moreover, collagen is necessary for the proper healing of wounds.

Skin Conditions Linked to Type 2 Diabetes

There are a few skin conditions that link to uncontrolled or high blood glucose levels. In fact, most skin complications related to diabetes are actually harmless.

However, the signs of some of the complications might be persistent and painful, and sometimes they might need medical attention.

The easiest and certainly best treatment option for most of these skin conditions is the management of blood glucose levels. But, in serious cases, there might be a need for medicated creams or oral steroids.

List of 10 Skin Conditions Linked to Type 2 Diabetes

1. Diabetic Blisters or Bullae

Those who have diabetic blisters often have blisters like sores of irregular shape which appear across their hands and feet.

Furthermore, these blisters are painless and might appear in patches or alone. The only treatment for this is proper management of the blood glucose levels.

2. Eruptive Xanthomas

This is marked by itchy outbreaks of bumps from yellowish-orange to reddish-brown color. Lesions might form at almost any place of the body. However, usually, they appear on the knees, thighs, elbows, and buttocks.

3. Diabetic Ulcers

Insignificant wounds might become open sores. These sores are known by the name of diabetic ulcers. These ulcers might appear anywhere on the body, but usually, they appear on the feet.

4. Acanthosis Nigricans

This condition occurs in 74 % of obese people who have this chronic disease. It is actually characterized by darkened velvety skin, mainly in the folds around the groin, around the armpits, and on the back of the neck.

In order to lower the risk of this condition, people should lose weight.

5. Waxy Skin and Limited Joint Mobility

People with this condition usually have waxy-looking, thick, and tight skin on their digits, skin, and hands.

This can lead to the contraction of tendons and joint stiffness. The best way to lower the risk of developing this condition is to control blood glucose levels.

6. Shin Spots and Diabetic Dermopathy

This condition is actually marked by light-brown or reddish circular patches that usually occur on the bony parts or the shins of the body.

As a matter of fact, around 39 % of those who have type 2 diabetes experience diabetic dermopathy. It occurs due to blood vessel and nerve damage, mainly small changes in the blood vessel.

The lesions are mainly harmless, and usually, the treatment is not necessary.

6. Psoriasis

Those who have type 2 diabetes are 2 times more likely to experience psoriasis. This is in comparison to those without the disease.

Often, people with psoriasis have red patches on the skin which might be scaly and itchy. Also, some people might have changed the nails. Some people have psoriasis and develop psoriatic arthritis, which comes with serious joint pains.

Treatment for psoriasis is good blood glucose management, injectable or oral biological drugs, cortisone ointments or creams, and weight control.

7. Sclerederma Diabeticorum

This condition related to type 2 diabetes is marked by skin thickenings that appear on the back of the neck and the upper back.

This is a rare condition that usually impacts overweight people. Treatment options are specialized light therapy and oral drugs like cyclosporine.

8. Xanthelasma

This complication is marked by yellow, scaly lesions that appear near and on the eyelids. It might be related to fat levels and high blood glucose.

But, it also might occur in people who don’t have sugar or fat problems. The treatment options are lipid-reducing drugs and dietary changes.

9. Skin Tags

The skin tags are skin-colored, soft growths that hang from the skin. They are very common among the general population. But excess skin tags might be a sign of uncontrolled or raised blood glucose levels.

10. NLD, i.e., Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticorum

Usually, lesions start as a firm, small, raised bumps that progress to bigger plaques of hard, waxy, from yellow to reddish-brown skin.

Usually, the plaques are painless, and the skin around them seems shiny and very pale. Often the lesions become waxy, and over time they have a purple border. Although it is harmless, this condition might lead to complications like scarring.

In case individual experiences relentless and dramatic patches, it might be a sign that the current diabetes treatments are not working. Treatment options for NLD are oral and topical drugs.

List of 5 Skin Conditions Impacted by Type 2 Diabetes

1. Styes

They are pus-filled, red painful lumps usually found along the edge of the eyelid. In addition, other signs are eyelid swelling and tearing.

2. Furuncles or Boils

These are pus-filled, red, tender lumps that usually form under the skin when one or maybe more hair follicles are infected by bacteria. More severe infection is a cluster of boils i.e. carbuncle.

3. Folliculitis

This is a fungal or bacterial infection of hair follicles. There are several types such as hot tub rash, razor bumps, and barber’s itch. In fact, they are usually clusters of white-tipped pimples or small red bumps. Common symptoms are tenderness and itching.

4. Nail Infections

5. Carbuncles

These lesions are tender, firm lumps which follow groups of related boils.

The Best Way to Prevent Complications

The best way to lower the frequency, risk, and severity of all skin conditions related to diabetes is by maintaining healthy blood glucose levels. Drugs, diet, losing weight, and exercise might help lower the blood glucose levels, and at the same time reduce the risk of skin complications.

Skin Care Tips

  • Avoid hot tubs, saunas, hot and long showers and baths;
  • Treat cuts right away and make sure to monitor their healing progress;
  • Avoid some bath products which might irritate or dry out the skin. Usually, those products are bath oils, bubble bath formulas, and scented soaps;
  • Avoid rubbing or scratch sores, infections, and rashes;
  • Use mild body washes, conditioners, and shampoos;
  • Keep the skin as dry and as clean as possible;
  • Prevent overly dry skin by using moisturizers and keeping it hydrated;
  • Avoid feminine hygiene sprays;
  • Avoid using too much moisturizer between the toes;
  • Make sure to consult a dermatologist in case of persistent skin conditions;
  • Also, check your feet for some changes, skin alterations, and sores on a daily basis.

Bear in mind that comfortable, well-fitting shoes might help improve foot circulation. Moreover, they can lessen or prevent the impact of other conditions. Most bacterial infections are actually easily treated when they are addressed early.


  • Gabriela

    Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Diabetes Health Page, Fitness trainer and instructor has dedicated her career to educating and informing people for over 10 years. As one of the most passionate diabetes advocates, Gabi has worked tirelessly to ensure that those people receive the education and support they need to properly manage their diabetes and achieve their health, fitness and weight loss goals.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}