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Your Skin and Diabetes

Risk of Atherosclerosis with Diabetes

Thickening of the arteries - atherosclerosis - can affect the skin on the legs. People with diabetes tend to get atherosclerosis at younger ages than other people do.

As atherosclerosis narrows the blood vessels, the skin changes. It becomes hairless, thin, cool, and shiny. The toes become cold. Toenails thicken and discolor. And exercise causes pain in the calf muscles because the muscles are not getting enough oxygen.

Because blood carries the infection-fighting white cells, affected legs heal slowly when the skin in injured. Even minor scrapes can result in open sores that heal slowly.

People with neuropathy are more likely to suffer foot injuries. These occur because the person does not feel pain, heat, cold, or pressure as well. The person can have an injured foot and not know about it. The wound goes uncared for, and so infections develop easily. Atherosclerosis can make things worse. The reduced blood flow can cause the infection to become severe.