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Effects of Diabetes on Skin and Mouth

Medically reviewed by Mia Dacumos, MD · Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Sep 24, 2020

    Effects of Diabetes on Skin and Mouth

    Diabetes can affect a lot of organ systems in the body such as the circulatory system, digestive system, the urinary tract, and others. But not a lot of people are aware of the effects of diabetes on skin.

    However, the effects of diabetes on skin and the mouth are one of the most common problems that arise from diabetes. And it is important for diabetics to take good care of their skin, because it diabetes can cause serious skin infections.

    The Long-term Effects of Uncontrolled Diabetes

    What are the effects of diabetes on skin?

    Almost every part of the body can get affected by diabetes. This is why it is important for diabetics to keep their condition under control.

    In particular, skin conditions are especially important because diabetics are more prone to skin conditions. Even if some of these conditions can be easily treated, they can quickly go out of control if not managed properly.

    Here are some of the possible effects of diabetes on the skin:

    Non-healing wounds

    Some patients would note that simple wounds such as lesions, cuts, and scratches would worsen, and take a longer time to heal compared to previous. If left untreated, these can worsen and develop into superimposed bacterial infections.

    Bacterial infections

    For bacterial infections, the most commonly seen lesions include abscesses, boils, furuncles, and carbuncles, which can become painful.

    Fungal infections

    The fungi Candida albicans causes the most common type of fungal infection that diabetics experience.

    This infection results in itchy red, moist rashes that can have small blisters and scales.

    These usually occur in the folds of the skin such as under the nails, under the breasts, corners of the mouth, the foreskin, groin, and in between fingers and toes.

    For the most part fungal infections can easily be treated by using antifungal cream, or medication that your doctor will prescribe.

    effects of diabetes on skin

    Acanthosis nigricans

    This is a condition wherein raised areas appear in the skin around the sides of the neck, armpits, and the groin.

    These areas are usually brown or tan in color.

    Acanthosis nigricans does not have any other side effects aside from being cosmetically displeasing. Losing weight is usually the best way to treat this condition.

    However, there are certain types of creams that your doctor can prescribe to help deal with this problem.

    Diabetic dermopathy

    Diabetic dermopathy manifests as red patches that turn brown after some time. These are usually round or oval, and appear most often on the front of the lower legs. These may appear as dry, flaky, or cracked skin.

    This results from changes in the blood vessels caused by diabetes. This condition is harmless, and does not need to be treated.

    Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum

    This condition is also caused by changes that happen to the blood vessels as a result of diabetes. It manifests as round lesions in the skin with brown borders and a yellow-brown center.

    Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum can be itchy and painful, and sometimes the skin starts to crack open. However, so long as the sores do not break, there is no need to get it treated.

    Once open sores start to appear, immediate treatment is required. This condition is more common among women.

    Diabetic blisters

    One of the effects of diabetes on skin is known as diabetic blisters. This is a rare occurrence, and it usually appears on the hands, backs of fingers, toes, feet, legs, and forearms.

    The appearance of these blisters can be similar to that of burn blisters. They are mostly painless, and can vary in size from small to large.

    Diabetic blisters usually heal by themselves, and the best form of treatment would be to keep your blood sugar levels normal.

    Diabetes and Foot Complications: What You Should Know

    Digital sclerosis

    Digital sclerosis is one of the effects of diabetes that manifests as thick, waxy skin on the back of the hands and rarely on the forehead and toes.

    This condition can also cause the fingers to become stiff, and hard to move. It can also affect the knees, ankles, and elbows.

    The best form of treatment for this condition would be to keep blood sugar levels under control.

    What are the effects of diabetes on the mouth?

    Aside from the effects of diabetes on the skin, it can also have an effect on the mouth. Here are some of those problems:

    Yeast infections

    High blood sugar levels can also cause a person’s saliva to have higher levels of glucose. Because of this, the mouth of diabetics can become more prone to infections, dry mouth, and increased risk of oral thrush.

    Oral thrush in particular is an overgrowth of the yeast Candida albicans. This can cause white or red patches on the mouth as well as mouth ulcers.

    This can be treated with antifungal medication.

    Tooth decay

    Increased glucose in the mouse can also increase the risk of tooth decay. If the teeth are not properly cared for, this can lead to tooth decay.

    Gum disease

    Additionally, gum disease is also increased as a result of high blood sugar levels. This is because the mouth becomes more prone to infections, which makes gum disease a more common occurrence.

    effects of diabetes on skin

    What can you do about these?

    The best way to manage these conditions would be to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Usually, these conditions manifest themselves if a person’s blood sugar level gets too high.

    In addition, your doctor can prescribe you medication to help mitigate some of the side effects and discomfort that these conditions could cause.

    In particular, it is important to ensure that any blisters or lesions in the skin do not become infected. As these infections can sometimes lead to amputation if the infection gets too severe.

    Learn more about diabetes complications here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Mia Dacumos, MD

    Nephrology · Makati Medical Center

    Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Sep 24, 2020

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