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.
Long-term type 2 diabetes with hyperglycaemia, (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 50 and 97 percent of people with diabetes will experience a related skin condition, so here are a few signs to watch out for:
- changes in the skin
- injuries or irritation to the skin surrounding insulin injection sites
- cuts or wounds that are slow to heal, as slow-healing wounds are often entryways for secondary infections
- cuts or wounds that appear infected
- pay particular attention to wounds and infections on your feet