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A Closer Look at Different Diabetic Rashes and Other Skin Conditions

Expertly reviewed by Dexter Macalintal, MD · Internal or General Medicine

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated May 10, 2022

A Closer Look at Different Diabetic Rashes and Other Skin Conditions

Diabetes is one of the most common diseases that often affect different parts of the body, such as the skin. Regardless of whether it is Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, there is a higher chance that a person will develop a diabetic rash or other related skin conditions.

Why Do Diabetic Rashes Appear?

The appearance of a diabetic rash may be the first sign of high blood sugar levels. This could either mean:

  • You have pre-diabetes.
  • You need to adjust some treatments or your management of diabetes if you are already diagnosed with the disease.

Some diabetic rashes may also be due to decreased blood flow in your extremities like the hands and feet. 

What Does a Diabetic Rash Look Like?

A diabetic rash may vary in appearance depending on the specific type and cause. Some of these rashes may fade once blood sugar levels are under control. Among these rashes are:

Diabetic Bullae

Painless blisters can appear on the backs of the hands and feet, as well as the legs and forearms. You might notice a large blister, a cluster of blisters, or both. 

Diabetic neuropathy is the most common cause of this uncommon condition.

Bullosis diabetricorum is the medical term for this condition. But some doctors may also refer to it as diabetic bullae. 

Acanthosis Nigricans

Another diabetic rash, acanthosis nigricans is a common diabetes complication. It is a skin condition characterized by dark patches on the creases of the following parts of the body:

  • Neck 
  • Armpits
  • Groins
  • Hands
  • Elbow 
  • Knees

It typically affects people who are extremely overweight or those who have too much insulin in their blood. Thus, losing weight would be the most effective treatment for it. Some doctors may also prescribe creams to improve the appearance of the spots.

Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticorum (NLD)

This type of diabetes rash frequently begins with small raised bumps that resemble pimples. As time goes on, these bumps turn into hard patches on the skin, which can be yellow, reddish, or brown in color. 

Women are more likely to develop this lower leg rash. Aside from the bumps, you may also notice other signs such as:

  • Shiny porcelain-like appearance of the surrounding skin
  • Visible blood vessels
  • Itchy and painful skin
  • Skin disease goes through cycles of being active, inactive, and active again

Digital Sclerosis

This type of diabetic rash refers to a skin condition that occurs on the fingers, toes, or both the fingers and the toes. Those with Type 1 diabetes often develop thick, hard, and waxy skin on the backs of their hands. Because of this, the finger joints tend to stiffen, making movement difficult. As the diabetic rash progresses over time, it can spread to other parts of the upper extremities like:

  • Forearms and upper arms
  • Chest
  • Upper back
  • Shoulders
  • Neck 
  • Face

Bushke’s scleredema adultorum is a related rash that causes tightening, thickening, and hardening of the back, neck, shoulders, and face.

In rare situations, this diabetic rash can also affect the skin around the knees, ankles, or even elbows. As a result, it makes straightening your legs, pointing your foot, or bending your arm a challenging task. 

Diabetic Dermopathy

Light-brown, circular scaly patches, similar to age spots, may appear on the shins. This skin condition causes spots (and occasionally lines) that form a barely visible depression in the skin. Moreover, these spots and lines, unlike age spots, usually disappear within 18 to 24 months. 

Diabetic dermopathy is more common in older people or those who have had diabetes for at least 10–20 years. It also appears to be associated with greater glycosylated hemoglobin, which is an indicator of poor blood glucose control.

Key Takeaways

A diabetic rash may look and feel differently depending on what triggers the condition.

Maintaining good control of your diabetes may help fight off other kinds of infections. 

Eat well.

Learn more about Diabetic Complications here


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

Expertly reviewed by

Dexter Macalintal, MD

Internal or General Medicine

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated May 10, 2022

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