Diabetes can cause dark spots on the skin
Skin problems can be a warning sign of diabetes
A skin disease occurs in at least every second diabetes patient. Problems with the skin can indicate inadequate therapy, signal a life-threatening emergency or warn of undiscovered type 2 diabetes. Experts from the German Diabetes Society (DDG) explain which complaints are particularly important to watch out for and what to do then. If itching persists and fungal infections are chronic, a dermatologist should be consulted in any case.
"Diabetes and skin are closely related," says Professor Dr. med. Monika Kellerer, President of the German Diabetes Society (DDG). “Between 30 and 70 percent of all diabetes patients show dermatological symptoms and diseases.” Experts assume that more than 50 skin diseases occur in connection with the metabolic disease.
It is not entirely clear why the diseases influence each other. "Presumably, inflammatory processes, deposits of sugary substances in the skin and the weakened immune defense favor fungal and bacterial infections," explains Professor Dr. med. Claudia Pföhler from the Department of Dermatology, Venereology and Allergology at the Saarland University Medical Center.
Brownish spots on the shin and stubborn yeast infections are common warning signs
The most common skin manifestations in people with diabetes include brownish, scar-like, rounded spots that usually appear over the anterior shin. Diabetic dermopathy, as the pigment changes are called in technical jargon, is found in up to 70 percent of all diabetes patients. "It is very often the first sign of undetected diabetes," reports Pföhler. Anyone who notices such spots on the shins, forearms or feet should have their fasting blood sugar checked by their family doctor or diabetologist. The good news: "The spots disappear as soon as the diabetes has ceased," assures the dermatologist.
Another warning sign of diabetes are severe, persistent fungal infections on the feet, in the groin or armpit, under the chest, in the vagina or in the anal area. "Chronic fungal infections with their excruciating itching are considered a marker disease for diabetes mellitus," says Pföhler. Candida albicans is the most common pathogen. The same applies here: It is essential to have the blood sugar level measured soberly. "As soon as the blood sugar level is normalized, the fungal infections can often be successfully treated with local creams and suppositories," reports the skin expert.
The foot as the gateway to dangerous diseases
In the case of nail fungus, itching is not in the foreground, but thickened nail plates, spots, brittleness and cracks. It is particularly dangerous for diabetic patients because the damaged nails serve as an entry point for bacteria that can, for example, promote a diabetic foot syndrome. "The remediation of nail fungus in diabetes patients is therefore not a cosmetic question, but a medical necessity and belongs in the hands of specialists," emphasizes DDG expert Dr. med. Cornelia Woitek, who heads a diabetological practice in Wurzen near Leipzig. Doctors can prescribe professional foot care from a podiatrist.
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Bacteria that enter the body through small foot wounds can even cause a serious wound infection - a so-called erysipelas, also known as rose wounds. "An erysipelas is noticeable on the skin as a flaming reddening that spreads quickly, preferably on the lower legs or on the face," explains Professor Dr. med. Baptist Gallwitz, media spokesman for the DDG.
Those affected usually develop a high fever and chills at the same time; there is an emergency here. "There is a risk of blood poisoning, which is why you should go to the hospital immediately," emphasizes the diabetologist from the Tübingen University Hospital. Because sometimes the pathogens are not only streptococci, but also staphylococci, which can be resistant to various antibiotics. "Whether blisters, pressure points or corns - diabetes patients have to watch out for every change in the skin on their feet," summarizes Gallwitz.
Insatiable itching - a warning sign of kidney damage
In the course of their illness, many diabetic patients suffer from dry skin. It is believed to cause pruritus, which is severe itching. "The patients scratch themselves on parts of the body that they can easily reach - on the upper shoulders, arms, and lower legs," reports Woitek. The skin also shows fine tears, slight flaking and reddening.
If the itching does not subside with classic therapies such as cortisone ointment or antihistamines, the doctor should pay attention. "Insatiable itching that does not respond to any therapy is an indication of a kidney dysfunction in diabetes patients," emphasizes Woitek. "Sometimes light therapy helps against skin problems," adds Pföhler. In any case, a dermatologist should be consulted. The nephrologist is responsible for kidney damage.
Proper skin care prevents
Diabetes patients can do something for their skin health themselves. "Daily skin care is essential," says Woitek. Moisturizing care products with the ingredients glycerine, panthenol, witch hazel, aloe vera, vitamin E and urea are particularly suitable for this. “In the cold season of the year, people with diabetes should not bathe too hot or too long and dry themselves well to avoid wet skin,” advises the diabetologist.
Source: Press release of the German Diabetes Society (DDG)
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