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What Is a Diabetic Rash?

By Jennifer Long
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A diabetic rash is one of the types of rashes that commonly occurs for people who have diabetes, which is known to cause changes in a person’s skin. There are several skin changes that are classified as diabetic rashes. These rashes include scleredema diabeticorum and thrush. Diabetic eczema and erythrasma are also skin rashes that occur as a result of diabetes.

Scleredema diabeticorum is one type of skin change that is classified as a diabetic rash. It generally appears on the upper back and neck areas. The skin thickens in these areas and will appear darker than the skin surrounding the patches. Although these patches do not appear as traditional rashes, they are called rashes because of the altering of the skin that occurs. Treating scleredema diabeticorum involves regulating sugar levels through dietary changes and increasing circulation through regular exercise.

Diabetic eczema is another type of diabetic rash that can occur. High sugar levels trigger a skin reaction, and areas of skin can become dry and itchy. When sugar levels remain high, the eczema worsens and can cause red patches, skin weeping, and boils. Topical eczema treatments can help alleviate the symptoms, but these areas cannot go away until the patient’s sugar levels are brought down.

Thrush is caused by a species of yeast called Candida albicans and is common for diabetics to experience. It can cause a diabetic rash on the tongue or along the walls of the mouth. The yeast is stimulated by excessive sugar consumption and grows out of control. White clumps of yeast appear on the affected areas of the mouth. Treatments for thrush include anti-fungal medications.

Erythrasma is the fourth type of diabetic rash that can occur as a result of diabetes. This type of rash appears as a scaly red or brown patch. It resembles the skin changes that occur with infections such as ringworm. The skin changes that occur as a result of erythrasma are commonly found in the skin folds of the groin, neck, or armpits. Overweight diabetic patients are more likely to experience a rash caused by erythrasma because of the increase of skin folds and bacteria that are found in these folds.

Most cases of diabetic skin rash occur because sugar levels fluctuate too much or remain too high. Treatment for these rashes begins with getting sugar levels under control. Antibiotic or anti-fungal medications, including pills and ointments, can treat bacterial or fungal outbreaks. Cortisone and eczema creams can also help soothe itchy and dry or scaly patches that occur with many skin rashes diabetics may experience. General good hygiene can help reduce the chances that an infection occurs.

Taking care of your skin is just as important as making sure you drink enough water and eat a healthy amount of food. Especially being someone diagnosed with diabetes whose skin is more susceptible to rashes and infections, skin care is of the utmost importance. 

Living with diabetes, rashes can happen. Knowing the signs of diabetic rash is vital whether someone is diagnosed or undiagnosed.

What Are the Signs of a Diabetic Rash? 

There are many reasons why humans develop rashes and infections on their skin, even when taking good care of it. The swollen, red, and sometimes itching patches are hard to miss, but the causes aren’t always clear. 

Knowing the signs of a diabetic rash versus other skin irritants is crucial to a person’s health. 

Someone who has already been diagnosed with diabetes may have an easier time differentiating their rash from other skin irritants, but undiagnosed patients may not be so sure.

A Diabetic Rash can come in many forms, such as scaly patches, yellow or brown patches, thickening skin, hot, swollen skin, and more. They can appear anywhere and are more than uncomfortable to deal with. 

The tell-tale signs of a diabetic rash usually pair with the symptoms of diabetes, prediabetes, and the severity of the rash. 

Consistent dry and patchy skin or swollen itchy areas are most likely signs of a diabetic rash, especially if it’s accompanied by the signs of diabetes. If the rash comes with constant urination, increased thirst, hunger, exhaustion, or any other symptom, it could be a sign of diabetes.

Diabetic Rashes are vastly different from poison rashes or allergic reactions, making it not as difficult to determine what it is.

Can Diabetic Rashes Be Prevented?

Rashes on the skin of people with diabetes are normal, but some precautions can prevent them from getting out of hand. 

By taking care of yourself with diabetes, you are taking care of your skin.

Diabetes can give people very dry and itchy skin in general, so taking care of your body with moisture and lotions daily can go a long way. Administering your insulin shots when you need them and the other medications you may need is vital for your health.

Avoiding skin irritants like hot showers and baths, high fragranced hair and skin products, and over-lotioning. Leaving excess lotion any wear can lead to more infection, including fungus. 

It’s also crucial to tend to any wounds you receive the moment they happen. Diabetes affects the body in several ways, one of which is how it takes a long time for regular wounds to heal

Getting ahead of treatment for injuries, moisturizing your skin, and keeping your body healthy puts patients on the right track in preventing skin infections and rashes.

With proper self-care, diabetic rashes can be kept away.

Can Diabetic Rash Lead to Long-Term Effects if Left Untreated?

When diagnosed with diabetes, people need to be mindful of their skin and keep it moisturized. When a rash does appear, it’s even more crucial it’s kept on close watch. 

Without the proper cleaning, moisture, or protection for a diabetic rash, an infection can start and make people sick. If their high blood sugar remains that way and isn’t watched closely, that can lead to an infection as well. 

Diabetic rashes won’t heal on their own without correcting blood sugar levels, applying ointments, or taking other medications. An infected diabetic rash can make you feel even worse, and make you sick enough to require a doctor. 

The moment the rash appears it should be getting taken care of. If not, it can lead to sickness, the rash can spread, and the risks of more health issues increase. 

Conclusion

Diabetic rashes look horrible and feel like a much bigger issue than they are. The truth is that, with the proper care, they will heal. People taking care of their skin with diabetes is the first step to healing a diabetic rash, and knowing the signs of the different kinds goes a long way in helping and even preventing it from happening.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon984173 — On Jan 06, 2015

I have had a red rash between my upper legs and under my breasts

for about six weeks. It hurts and is itchy. I am 74 and have been low sugar for a lot of years, and have never seen anything like this.

Is there something I might get over the counter to help the itching? As for now, I am just using powder.

By SteamLouis — On Oct 31, 2013

I've had both yeast and strep skin infections because of diabetes. Even bacteria that normally resides on skin can grow out of control when blood sugar is high. Genital yeast has been a huge problem for me and I know that it's because of the excess sugar that's excreted via urine. Cutting out carbs has helped a lot though.

By bluedolphin — On Oct 31, 2013

Thrush that doesn't resolve could be a sign of diabetes. But if someone is dealing with a diabetic rash, they must have consistently very high blood sugar levels. And this will cause other symptoms in addition to the rash like excessive thirst and urination, nausea and an odd taste in the mouth.

The only way to know if a rash is being caused by high sugar levels is to get a glucose tolerance test.

I never got a diabetic rash before my diagnosis but I had all other symptoms of diabetes. I got my first diabetic rash fifteen years after I was diagnosed. My tablet medication was no longer enough at that time and I couldn't keep my blood sugar in control. I now use both insulin and tablet medication. Thankfully, I haven't had any rashes for a while. Diabetic rashes can be a nightmare.

By bear78 — On Oct 30, 2013

I have been dealing with chronic thrush for a few months now. I've been using anti-fungal medications and they seem to work for a short while, but the infection comes right back.

Could it be diabetes? How do I know if my thrush is being caused by diabetes?

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