Diabetes: 12 warning signs that appear on your skin

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

Skin problems are often the first visible signs of diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). Type 2 diabetes can make existing skin problems worse, and also cause new ones.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic metabolic condition that affects how your body utilizes glucose (sugar). This happens when the body either doesn’t respond normally to insulin or doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain a normal blood sugar level.

While there’s no cure, some people can manage their type 2 diabetes by eating well and exercising. Monitoring your blood sugar is also important.

Sometimes maintaining a healthy weight isn’t enough to manage this condition. In those cases, a doctor will determine that medication intervention is needed.

Insulin injections, oral drugs, and non-insulin injectables are some common treatments for diabetes.

Long-term type 2 diabetes with hyperglycemia, or high blood glucose, tends to be associated with poor circulation, which reduces blood flow to the skin. It can also cause damage to blood vessels and nerves. The ability of the white blood cells to fight off infections is also decreased in the face of elevated blood sugar.

Decreased blood circulation can lead to changes in the skin’s collagen. This changes the skin’s texture, appearance, and ability to heal.

Damage to the skin cells can even interfere with your ability to sweat. It can also increase your sensitivity to temperature and pressure.

Diabetic neuropathy can cause decreased sensation. This makes skin more prone to wounds that may not be felt and therefore come to your attention at a later stage.

Between 51.1 and 97 percent of people with diabetes will experience a related skin condition, according to a recent literature review.

For this reason, people with type 2 diabetes should watch out for:

The types of skin conditions caused by diabetes are typically involve either bacterial or fungal infection.


why do diabetics get dry skin

If you have diabetes, you’re more likely to have dry skin. High blood sugar (glucose) can cause this. If you have a skin infection or poor circulation, these could also contribute to dry, itchy skin.

1. Yellow, reddish, or brown patches on your skin

This skin condition often begins as small raised solid bumps that look like pimples. As it progresses, these bumps turn into patches of swollen and hard skin. The patches can be yellow, reddish, or brown.

You may also notice: The surrounding skin has a shiny porcelain-like appearance You can see blood vessels The skin is itchy and painful The skin disease goes through cycles where it is active, inactive, and then active again The medical name for this condition is necrobiosis lipodica.

  • Get tested for diabetes, if you have not been diagnosed.
  • Work with your doctor to better control your diabetes.
  • See a dermatologist about your skin. Necorbiosis lipodica is harmless, but it can lead to complications.
  • 2. Darker area of skin that feels like velvet

    A dark patch (or band) of velvety skin on the back of your neck, armpit, groin, or elsewhere could mean that you have too much insulin in your blood. This is often a sign of prediabetes. The medical name for this skin condition is acanthosis nigricans.

    Often causing darker skin in the creases of the neck, AN may be the first sign that someone has diabetes.

  • Get tested for diabetes
  • Main navigation

    Diabetes Complications

    Diabetes can affect every part of the body, including the skin. In fact, such problems are sometimes the first sign that a person has diabetes. Luckily, most skin conditions can be prevented or easily treated if caught early.

    Some of these problems are skin conditions anyone can have, but people with diabetes get more easily. These include bacterial infections, fungal infections, and itching. Other skin problems happen mostly or only to people with diabetes. These include diabetic dermopathy, necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum, diabetic blisters, and eruptive xanthomatosis.

    General skin conditions

    Several kinds of bacterial infections occur in people with diabetes:

  • Styes (infections of the glands of the eyelid)
  • Boils
  • Folliculitis (infections of the hair follicles)
  • Carbuncles (deep infections of the skin and the tissue underneath)
  • Infections around the nails
  • Inflamed tissues are usually hot, swollen, red, and painful. Several different organisms can cause infections, the most common being Staphylococcus bacteria, also called staph.

    Once, bacterial infections were life threatening, especially for people with diabetes. Today, death is rare, thanks to antibiotics and better methods of blood sugar control.

    But even today, people with diabetes have more bacterial infections than other people do. Doctors believe people with diabetes can reduce their chances of these infections by practicing good skin care.

    If you think you have a bacterial infection, see your doctor.

    The connection between diabetes and itchy skin

    Diabetes can make the body lose too much fluid through urination and evaporation through the skin. The result: dry, itchy skin that can be bothersome and sometimes uncomfortable.

    Itching, especially in the lower legs and feet, can also be caused by poor circulation, which is common with diabetes. Some people experience a skin reaction to their diabetes medication or insulin injections.

    In addition, itching can be brought on by diabetes complications including nerve damage, kidney disease and liver disease. Certain medications for other health problems common in people with diabetes, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, can make the skin itchy, too.

    Scientists suspect that those with type 2 diabetes may be vulnerable to itchy skin (and also skin infections) for yet another reason: Their skin’s barrier function is impaired. Exactly how and why this happens is still being studied.

    Bacterial infections

    Bacterial infections are common for everyone. However, these kinds of infections are especially problematic for people with type 2 diabetes.

    These skin conditions are often painful and warm to the touch, with swelling and redness. They may increase in size, number, and frequency if your blood glucose level is chronically elevated.

    The most common bacteria that cause skin infections are Staphylococcus, or staph, and Streptococcus, or strep.

    Serious bacterial infections can cause deep tissue infections called carbuncles. These may need to be pierced by a doctor and drained. If you suspect that you have a bacterial infection, notify your doctor immediately so you may be treated with antibiotics.

    Other common bacterial infections include:

  • boils
  • styes, or infections around the eyes
  • folliculitis, or infections of the hair follicles
  • infections around the fingernails and toenails
  • Leave a Comment