There are a variety of skin conditions that specifically afflict diabetes patients. Diabetes is a disease that results when the body is no longer capable of producing, storing or utilizing necessary amounts of the hormone insulin. This hormone is key to regulating blood glucose levels. When it is not functioning properly, unhealthy amounts of glucose plague the body, via the bloodstream, and may cause symptoms of diabetes-related skin conditions.
The following is a list of some of the skin conditions specific to a diabetic patient:
- Acanthosis nigricans — raised and brownish patches
- Diabetic dermopathy — small round bumps on the shins
- Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum — granular skin lesions
- Eruptive xanthomatosis — small, roundish pink papules
- Disseminated granuloma annulare — small bumpy lesions
Interestingly, often the first sign of adult onset diabetes, also known as Type 2 diabetes, is an exacerbation of a pre-existing skin condition, or the appearance of a new one. This is because the damage to the nerves and blood vessels impairs the body's ability to fight infection. When diabetes goes unchecked, not only do the chances of incurring fungal and bacterial infections increase, but the severity of such as well.
According to the theory of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, the skin and the large intestine have a unique relationship. The health of the large intestine can be observed by the condition of the skin. One purpose of this internal organ is to absorb fluids and excrete wastes. Sometimes unusable or toxic material gets stuck and starts to putrify, instead of completely exiting the body via the colon.
Although heat and toxins are normally released through the sweat glands, an overload of waste products can undermine this function and tell-tale symptoms of abnormal skin conditions may manifest. Depending on the type of infection or condition, the skin may react by producing heat, swelling, redness, itchiness, dry patches, or pus-filled sores.
If a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine observes a diabetic patient with itchy, red, and painful sores on top of the foot, a treatment may include use of acupuncture points on the large intestine channel. A channel is a fixed route on which energy flows throughout the entire body. One point in particular found on the large intestine channel, called Quchi, is a versatile point that can clear heat to assist in the healing of sores and, if necessary, reduce a high fever.
Quchi is located right near the elbows, so this would not be an appropriate point to use if there is a skin pathology at that site. A practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine can needle near the area of the problem, but never directly into the affected skin.
To help reinforce the acupuncture treatments, lifestyle and dietary changes are usually recommended. Foods that can support large intestine health include yams, pumpkins, soy beans, string beans, celery, and turnips. Fruits and vegetables high in fiber will help keep food moving in the digestive tract. It's when food remains undigested in the large intestine that pathogens and toxins may accumulate.
Drinking water periodically throughout the day will help the intestines stay lubricated. Warm tea can be especially soothing after eating a meal. Diabetic patients may want to consider eating smaller meals at more frequent intervals. Avoiding fatty, greasy or fried foods can prevent the large intestine from becoming overburdened.
If you've recently discovered unsightly or mysterious skin conditions, or are already diagnosed with diabetes and suffer from skin issues related to it, contact your practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine for an appointment. It is important to treat the symptoms of diabetes because if poorly managed, the chances of unpleasant skin conditions increase.
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About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.