Signs and symptoms of diabetes onset and eczema

Updated April 17, 2017

Diabetes occurs when the pancreas cannot create enough insulin or cells become resistant to it, which causes abnormally high levels of sugar to enter the bloodstream. If left untreated, it can cause serious health conditions, many of which can be life-threatening. About 33% of people with diabetes develop various types of skin infections, some of which can be mistaken for eczema, which is caused by various skin irritants, not abnormal insulin or blood sugar levels.

Signs of diabetes

Unlike eczema, which only affects the skin, diabetes can trigger many types of symptoms. People with Type-1 Diabetes (which is hereditary in many patients) develop extreme thirst, hunger, fatigue, frequent urination and irritability, the Mayo Clinic explains. Type-2 Diabetes, which develops in adults and some children with chronically-high blood sugar, can cause frequent infections, blurred vision, poot wound-healing, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet and skin, gum or bladder infections. Diabetes makes people more susceptible to developing bacterial and other infections which can manifest as several types of skin rashes, some of which like eczema, appear as red, chronically itchy patches or lesions. However, some people with diabetes show no signs of having the disease, which can, if left untreated, cause serious health conditions that affect the entire body.

Symptoms/causes of eczema

There are various types of eczema, which causes red, swollen, persistently itchy patches of skin. They can last for long periods of time and recede but then flare up again. Persistent scratching can cause bleeding and skin infections.

Causes of eczema include allergic reactions to food or something the person touches that irritates the skin, including yeast that naturally grows on skin. It can be caused by hormonal or endocrinological imbalances and bacterial and fungus that penetrates microscopic tears in some people’s skin can cause it as well, the Eczemanet website reports. Stress can cause flare-ups; so can threats to the immune system, the eczema web site explains. Other triggers are exposure to skin-irritating chemicals in the environment, sweat-inducing exercise and extreme temperatures. Sometimes repeatedly rubbing or scratching a part of the body will also stimulate an eczema flare-up.

Protein involvement

A protein called caspase 8 that was previously associated only with cell death helps heal wounds in laboratory mice. People with eczema lack normal amounts of this protein, but those with diabetes produce too much of it. In the mice, the lack of caspase 8 caused skin cells and stem cells to rush to the skin surface, reproduce and become inflamed, which is what the way skin heals and closes wounds. However, diabetes impairs wound-healing, and the researchers now suspect that diabetics’ overproduction of the protein may be involved.

Differences in treatment

Diabetes treatment ranges from adopting a low-fat, healthy, sugar-controlled diet and exercise to insulin injections in severe cases. Treatments for eczema, on the other hand, include application of topical ointments, such as soothing lotions and cortizone creams, antihistamines, antibiotics to prevent infection, stress reduction and vitamin supplementation.

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About the Author

Barbara Bryant has been writing professionally for 25 years. She has contributed to "The Military Engineer" and ASCE's "Civil Engineering" magazines as well as many other publications. Through newsletters and blogs, Bryant specializes in health and fitness topics, drawing on expertise from personal trainers and a naturopathic doctor.