June 23, 2022

Diabetes Rash: Appearance & Prevention

Diabetes can lead to complications in other areas, one of these being your skin. Learn more about what skin complications to be on the lookout for. 


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Home / Living with Diabetes / Diabetes Rash: Appearance & Prevention

If you’re living with diabetes, you probably know all about the effects it can have on your overall health. While they aren’t as severe as some diabetes complications, it’s essential to know the warning signs of a diabetes rash. Sometimes, these rashes and other skin problems can result in serious infections. 

Can Diabetics get Skin Rashes? 

About one out of every three people with diabetes will develop skin rashes or other skin problems at some point in their life. To keep your skin healthy, keep reading for our guide to spotting and preventing a diabetes rash. 

What Causes a Diabetes Rash? 

Of course, there’s no shortage of factors that can cause skin rashes. These conditions can be triggered by heat, allergies, infections, and many other things. For people with diabetes, high blood sugar levels are another potential cause of rashes. 

If you take insulin or another diabetes medication, a rash can indicate that you need to adjust your dosage. Reduced blood flow due to diabetes can also result in rashes in your hands and feet. Even if you don’t have diabetes, an unexplained rash could signify high blood glucose or even prediabetes. 

Types of Diabetes Rashes 

Unfortunately, there’s no one type of “diabetes rash” you can look out for. Instead, several rash types are associated with this disease. We’ve prepared a detailed breakdown below. 

What Does Diabetic Skin Rashes Look Like? 

Some rashes and skin conditions are almost always indicative of diabetes. These include: 

  • Blisters (bullosis diabeticorum). These blisters are painless, but they can appear on the backs of your hands and feet, your legs, and your forearms. In most cases, this condition is seen in people with diabetic neuropathy. 
  • Diabetes dermopathy. Have you noticed round, light-brown scaly patches on your shins? If so, this may be the culprit. Don’t worry – these spots are harmless, so you won’t need to treat them. 
  • Digital sclerosis. People living with type 1 diabetes might notice the skin on the back of their hands growing harder and thicker. That can include skin on your finger joints, making it harder to move your hands. Your dermatologist can help treat this and a related condition called “scleredema adultorum of Bushke,” which can affect the face, neck, shoulders, and back. 
  • Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum. Known as “NLD” for short, this rash has a distinctive appearance – it causes shiny raised red patches with a yellow center. NLD usually affects women with diabetes, and it typically materializes on the lower legs. Since these rashes can cause pain and itching, talk to a dermatologist if you think you may be affected. 
  • Diabetic foot syndrome. This condition is marked by ulcers caused by injuries to the skin on your feet. These ulcers have a heightened infection risk, so you’ll need to be extra careful if diabetic foot syndrome sounds familiar. 

woman speaking with type-2 diabetes speaking with doctor

Other Rashes Seen in People with Diabetes 

These are some of the rashes and skin conditions most closely linked to diabetes, but they aren’t the only problems you may have to deal with. These conditions are especially common in people with diabetes, to the point where they can serve as a warning sign for prediabetes: 

  • Acanthosis nigricans (AN). AN can be identified by the appearance of dark, velvety skin bands. It’s most common in people dealing with excess weight. 
  • Disseminated granuloma annulare. In people with diabetes, granuloma annulare can take the shape of “rings” or “arcs” around the ears, feet, hands, or fingers. This rash may be red, reddish-brown, or even match your skin tone. This rash often heals without treatment, but the associated itching may be a concern. 
  • Eruptive xanthomatosis. The skin bumps caused by this condition are often pea-sized, firm, yellow, and itchy. Look for them on the backs of feet, hands, buttocks, arms, and legs. Men with high cholesterol and type 1 diabetes are at an elevated risk for eruptive xanthomatosis. 
  • Vitiligo. If you have type 1 diabetes, you have an above-average risk of vitiligo. That involves the loss of skin pigment, causing light or white skin patches. Vitiligo can sometimes itch or hurt, and therapy methods range from special creams to laser treatments. 
  • Skin tags. These little brown bumps can appear on your groin, neck, armpits, or eyelids. They usually don’t cause harm, so you shouldn’t need to remove them. 
  • Lichen planus. You can spot a lichen planus rash by looking for itchy, purple bumps (especially if a lacy white pattern accompanies them). These rashes can appear on the ankles, wrists, or even the mouth – fortunately, there are all kinds of treatment methods available. 
  • Acquired reactive perforating collagenosis (ARPC). The red, itchy bumps caused by ARPC are often seen in people with kidney damage. You can use topical steroids, steroid injections at the rash site, and other medications for treatment. 

Know How to Prevent Diabetes Rashes 

Even when they aren’t more than an inconvenience, diabetes rashes can lead to complications down the line. The most effective way of treating these rashes is prevention – since they are often caused by high blood sugar, controlling your glucose levels can help. In addition to that, you can: 

  • Do a daily skin check for rashes and other skin problems 
  • Use moisturizing soap and warm (not hot!) water in the shower 
  • Avoid baths – soaking in a tub can dry your skin out 
  • Pat your skin down with a towel after showering to dry off 
  • Applying fragrance-free moisturizers to your skin after a shower 
  • Drink fluids regularly to stay hydrated 
  • Add moisture to the air in your home with a humidifier 

Are you looking for more help when it comes to managing diabetes symptoms? Take a look at the other articles featured on US MED’s blog to get started. Along with that, you can make diabetes management easier by ordering continuous glucose monitors, insulin pumps, testing supplies, and more on our online store!

Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialist

Medical Review by Shirley DeLeon, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

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