How do you treat the skin you're in? If you're diabetic, hopefully you take extra care to examine yours often and see a doctor at the first sign of any abnormality. People with diabetes are more prone to certain skin conditions so it pays to be vigilant. Here's what to watch for.

1. Eczema and dry skin. "Drier than normal skin is very common in diabetics," says Stanley Mirsky, MD, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and the author of The Diabetes Survival Guide. "And diabetics are more prone to getting eczema as well."

Itching is common with eczema, especially in people who have poor circulation. To treat, limit how often you bathe so your skin won't dry out. Use a very mild soap, and apply a skin cream to your skin after you dry off.  Corticosteroid creams and ointments may also be prescribed.

2. Fungal infections. These are much more common when the blood sugar is high. Jock itch, athlete's foot, itchy vaginal infections, and ringworm are common fungal infections. Symptoms include itching and burning, and common places to get a fungal infection are the feet, under the breasts, around the nails, between the toes and around the genitals. These infections are treatable with anti-fungicides, Mirsky says, but a serious, untreated one could even lead to amputation. Look between your toes frequently to see if there are any abnormal looking areas and if so, get in touch with the doctor right away.

3. Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum. Usually appearing on the lower part of the legs, this condition presents with small lesions that are typically raised, yellow and waxy. They may have a purple border and can extend over a large area. While rare, it can be itchy and painful. Treatment's not needed unless the sores open, in which case it's time to see the doctor.

4. Acanthosis nigricans. This is an uncommon condition that causes dark raised areas to appear in the groin, armpits, and the sides of the neck. Occasionally the hands, elbows and knees also are affected. Typically, this disorder afflicts people who are very overweight. "It is a manifestation of too much insulin," says Joel Zonszein, MD, MD, CDE, FACE, FACP, professor of clinical medicine at Albert Einstein Medical Center and director of the Clinical Diabetes Center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.  "The best treatment is to lose weight."

5. Diabetic dermopathy. Also known as "Brown Spots," this actually causes changes in the small blood vessels. On the skin, light brown, scaly patches appear. This is most common in people who have had diabetes for a long time, Zonszein says. The good news? The patches don't hurt or itch, and the condition is harmless and requires no treatment.

6. Eruptive xanthomatosis. In diabetics with poor blood sugar control or high levels of fat and cholesterol in the blood, this disorder is not uncommon. Firm, yellow enlargements about the size of peas form in the skin, and these may be itchy. It's most common on the arms, legs, buttocks, back of hands and feet, and--like so many other skin disorders-- tends to disappear when the person's blood sugar control gets back on track.  


Living with Diabetes: Skin Complications. American Diabetes Association.

Diabetes Basics: Common Terms. American Diabetes Association.