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Common skin conditions for people with type 1 diabetes

Keeping diabetes well managed is the most important factor in preventing the skin-related complications of type 1 diabetes. Proper skin care can also help reduce your risk of skin problems.

Most skin conditions can be prevented and successfully treated if caught early. But if not cared for properly, a minor skin condition in a person with diabetes can turn into a serious problem with potentially severe consequences.

Skin conditions linked to type 1 diabetes

  • Vitiligo: Vitiligo is a condition that affects skin colouration. With vitiligo, the special cells that make pigment (the substance that controls skin colour) are destroyed, resulting in patches of discoloured skin. Vitiligo often affects the chest and abdomen, but may be found on the face round the mouth, nostrils and eyes. This condition is more commonly associated with type 1 diabetes. Current treatment options for vitiligo include topical steroids, ultraviolet light treatments, skin camouflage, and micropigmentation (tattooing). You should use sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher to prevent sunburn of the discoloured skin.
  • Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum: Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum (NLD) is caused by changes in the collagen and fat content underneath the skin. The overlaying skin area becomes thinned and reddened. Most lesions are found on the lower parts of the legs and can ulcerate if subjected to trauma. Lesions have fairly well defined borders between normal skin and affected lesions. Sometimes, NLD is itchy and painful. As long as the sores do not break open, treatment is not necessary. If the sores do break open, seek medical advice for treatment.
  • Digital sclerosis: Digital sclerosis is a condition in which the skin on your toes, fingers and hands becomes thick, waxy and tight. Stiffness of the finger joints may also occur. The treatment involves bringing your blood glucose level under control. Lotions and moisturisers may help soften the skin.

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