Diabetes and Skin Conditions: 7 Warning Signs You Must Know

symptoms of diabetes skin problems

Diabetes is a disease that can affect anyone irrespective of age, race, and gender. Diabetes is a disease condition in which your body either can’t produce insulin or can’t effectively use the insulin it produces. In this article, you’ll discover diabetes and skin conditions: 7 warning signs you need to know.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and is required in your body to regulate the amount of glucose in the blood.

For your body to function effectively your blood sugar needs to be regulated carefully and high blood sugar can cause damage to your organs, nerves, and blood vessels.

Diabetes can affect several parts of your body, including your skin resulting in discomforting skin problems. Amazingly, learning to identify the common signs and symptoms of diabetes skin conditions early can help you clear up the discomfort quickly, and regain your health back.

When diabetes affects the skin, it’s often a sign that your glucose levels are too high. These warning signs could indicate the following:

  1. Undiagnosed diabetes or pre-diabetes
  2. Need to review or adjust your treatment of diabetes.

Diabetes and Skin Conditions: 7 Warning Signs

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

symptoms of diabetes skin problems

This skin condition is also known as Necrobiosis lipoidica. It presents small raised solid bumps that look like pimples. As it progresses, the bumps turn into patches of swollen and hard skin. The patches can be yellow, reddish, or brown.

You may also notice; A shiny-like appearance around your skin, and visible blood vessels, and your skin becomes itchy and painful. The skin disease becomes active, inactive, and then active again.

What you should do

  • Get tested for diabetes
  • Get information on how to better control your diabetes.
  • Go check your skin

2. A dark, velvet-like area on the skin

This condition is known as Acanthosis nigricans.

Acanthosis nigricans occurs when you have too much insulin in your blood. This type of diabetes skin condition may present as a dark patch of velvety skin on the back of your neck, armpit, groin, or any other part of your body.

What you should do

Get tested for diabetes if you have not been tested before.

3. Hard, thickening skin

This condition is known as digital sclerosis.

It often appears on the fingers, toes, or both. Digital sclerosis can cause your fingers to become stiff and difficult to move.

You may see hard, thick, and swollen-looking skin. This can spread and appear on the forearms and upper arms.

It can also spread to your face, shoulder, and chest.

This kind of diabetes skin problem often develops in people who have complications due to diabetes and can also occur in people whose diabetes is difficult to treat.

What you should do

  • Tell your doctor about the thickening skin you observed.
  • Get better control of your diabetes.
  • Go for physical therapy to check for joint mobility.

4. Blisters

signs of high blood sugar

This condition is referred to as diabetic bullae or diabetic blister. These blisters are present occasionally. If you have diabetes, you may see blisters suddenly appear on your skin.

The blisters can be large, a group of blisters, or both.

Diabetic blisters often appear on the hands, feet, legs, or forearms and present like blisters seen after a severe burn but are painless.

What you should do

  • Inform your doctor about the blisters.
  • You need to take the necessary steps to prevent an infection.
  • Get adequate information on better control of your diabetes.

5. Skin infections

Skin infection is common among people with diabetes. If you have a skin infection you may present with painful hot and swollen skin, tiny blisters, itchy rash, dry scaly skin, or a white patch discharge.

A skin infection can occur in any part of your body. For example, in between your toes, your scalp, or around one or more of your nails.

What you should do

  • Treat your infection immediately.
  • Inform your doctor immediately
  • You may need better control of your diabetes to prevent it from spreading.

6. Open sores

This is referred to as diabetic ulcers. They usually occur in the feet. A diabetic ulcer may result due to poorly managed diabetes over a prolonged period.

This leads to poor circulation of blood, thus causing nerve damage. Your body finds it hard to heal the wound properly when there is poor circulation and nerve damage.

What you should do

  • Get immediate medical care for your wound
  • Get better control of your diabetes.

7. Very dry itchy skin

high blood sugar and skin conditions

Dry itchy skin is more likely to occur If you have diabetes. It can be caused when your blood sugar is extremely high.

You may experience dry itchy skin if you have a skin infection

What you should do

  • Inform your doctor about your extremely dry skin.
  • Get better control of diabetes to reduce dryness.
  • See a dermatologist for help if the symptom persists and causes discomfort.


Visit your doctor if you notice any of the diabetes skin conditions discussed above and any or some of the following signs.
Signs of infection; redness, swelling, pus, and warmth at the site. When infections (bacterial or fungal) are not treated with the right drugs they will get worst and could lead to diabetes complications.

If you also notice a widespread rash that is raised or a red area that is spreading, see your doctor to rule out disseminated granuloma annulare or necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum. These are two itchy, rash-like diabetes skin conditions that should be treated with medication. Most diabetic skin conditions can be avoided or improved with proper blood sugar monitoring and good skin hygiene.


  1.  Derraik JGB, Rademaker M, Cutfield WS, Pinto TE, Tregurtha S, Faherty A, et al. Effects of age, gender, bmi, and anatomical site on skin thickness in children and adults with diabetes. Brandner JM, editor. PLoS ONE [Internet]. 2014 Jan 21 [cited 2022 Nov 21];9(1):e86637. Available from: https://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0086637
  2. Dong J, Chen L, Zhang Y, Jayaswal N, Mezghani I, Zhang W, et al. Mast cells in diabetes and diabetic wound healing. Adv Ther [Internet]. 2020 Nov [cited 2022 Nov 21];37(11):4519–37. Available from: https://link.springer.com/10.1007/s12325-020-01499-4


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diabetes and skin conditions- warning signs