Facing skin issues as a type 1 diabetic

minute read
June 19, 2023
A type 1 diabetic's hand, with dry skin.
Note: Image for illustration only. It does not show the author of this story. Photo credit - Alexander Grey

I’m a 28-year-old type 1 diabetic, first diagnosed in 2019 – And I’ve been struggling with skin issues ever since.

Diabetes can cause a range of skin problems. For me, it’s been a constant battle with eczema, pompholyx, psoriasis, and other related conditions.

Understanding my skin diseases

Here are the skin diseases I have to deal with and how they affect me:

Eczema – A chronic skin condition that causes the skin to become red, dry, and itchy. It often appears on my hands and feet, making everyday tasks like washing dishes or walking painful and uncomfortable.

Pompholyx – A type of eczema that causes blisters on the hands and feet. These blisters are filled with fluid and can be extremely painful. After they heal, they form lesions on my skin, like skin tags.

Psoriasis – A chronic condition where your skin cells build up rapidly, forming red, scaly patches. It can form on any part of your body, but most commonly on your scalp, elbows, knees, and lower back. It’s an autoimmune disease, meaning it’s caused by your body’s immune system mistakenly attacking healthy cells. With psoriasis, your immune cells attack healthy skin cells, causing your body to produce new skin cells faster than normal. The exact cause of psoriasis isn’t fully understood, but it’s often linked with people who have other autoimmune diseases, like my type 1 diabetes.

The challenges

Living with these skin conditions has been a struggle, physically and emotionally.

There have been days when I’ve been unable to do anything because the pain and discomfort were too much to bear. The constant itching and burning have left me exhausted and drained, and it’s been hard to maintain a positive outlook.

One of the most frustrating parts of these conditions is that they’re often unpredictable. I can go days or weeks without any symptoms, then suddenly have a flare-up that leaves me miserable – It’s difficult to plan my life or make commitments when I don’t know how my skin will react.

Another challenge has been finding effective treatments. I’ve tried countless lotions, creams and ointments, but nothing works for very long. I also have to be careful about the products I use, because many of them are too harsh and irritate my skin even more.

As a diabetic, I know taking care of my skin is important for my overall health and well-being. High blood sugar levels can cause my skin to become dry and cracked, which makes it more vulnerable to infections – This means I have to be diligent about moisturising and taking care of my skin, even when it’s hard.

The frustrations

Diabetes also means my skin heals very slowly. When my blood glucose level isn’t in check my bruises take forever to heal. I also get dark spots on my neck and darker knuckles because of insulin resistance – These are cosmetic issues though, and comparatively aren’t as bad as the pain and irritation of skin spots.

It can be frustrating feeling like my skin issues are out of my control. I know there’s no cure for autoimmune psoriasis, eczema or pompholyx, and I’ll likely have to deal with these conditions for the rest of my life.

There was a time in 2020 when I had prominent, visible skin issues in 9 different areas of my body (including lesions on my scalp, eczema on my elbows and knees, and pompholyx on my right hand). It was one of the lowest points of my life.

Thankfully my sister-in-law is a dermatologist, and I can consult with her. Even if we’re in different cities, I can send her HD images of my skin and she can guide me about what medicine I need to apply – To this day, she’s a continuous support in my battle with my skin conditions.

Final thoughts

Knowing what your skin complications are, and keeping a strong mind, are key.

Being patient and keeping your blood sugar levels in check will also help control your skin problems (a bit).

And getting support from a good dermatologist, and your family, can help you take the right medication at the right time, and stay strong emotionally and mentally.

Profile photo of Hira Tayyab, a type 1 diabetic.
Hira Tayyab

Hira's a type 1 diabetic who suffers from eczema, pompholyx and psoriasis. While she knows there's no cure, she's doing all she can to manage these conditions. She relies heavily on her dermatologist, and believes in maintaining a positive outlook despite her skin problems.

Editor's note: The opinions and experiences reflected in stories from the diabetic community belong to the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of InDiabetes.

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