Diabetes is a disease that was once thought to be fairly benign. Other than the effects it has on blood sugar and insulin, we thought it didn’t harm anything else. We now know that diabetes adversely affects the kidneys, eyes, immune system, and blood vessels just to name a few. Even the skin can be unfavorably affected. Let’s discuss how diabetes can first show its ugly face through the skin.
The skin is often referred to as the window to the body because changes in it often are results from what is going on inside. Just like every organ in our bodies, the skin needs oxygen to be maintained. Oxygen is delivered to the skin via blood vessels that run just below the skin’s surface. The oxygen diffuses through the vessel walls to get to where it is most needed. However, with diabetes , the elevated blood sugar causes the vessel walls to thicken. This not only happens to the blood vessels in the skin, but everywhere in the body. This, at least in part, is why diabetics are at higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure etc…
Without adequate oxygen, the overlying skin skin can atrophy (get thinner) or even die (skin necrosis). These sores may heal, but then come back weeks later for no obvious reason. Incredibly, in a small yet substantial number of cases, these changes to the skin may be the first indicator to someone that they are heading toward diabetes, or that they are at high risk for developing diabetes. If you notice these skin changes soon enough, you may be able to start treatment by adjusting your eating habits and increasing exercise. This may slow or completely reverse the progression of diabetes.
There are several different changes that occur in a diabetic’s skin. Diabteic Dermopathy and Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticorum are just two of the skin conditions we’ll discuss next post.