A man uses moisturizer on his dry hands.

Although diabetes is primarily known for its effect on blood sugar levels, the disease can affect all parts of the body, including the skin.

©iStockphoto.com/Ryerson Clark

Most people know diabetes has something to do with blood sugar and might involve insulin shots, but there's really much more to it. In reality, while diabetes does indeed have to do with the amount of glucose in the blood, it can affect all parts of the body, including the skin [source: American Diabetes Association]. Fortunately, it's possible to stave off skin problems by keeping diabetes well under control and taking a few preventive measures.

Diabetes is a disease caused by too much glucose in the blood, but this buildup occurs in different ways and depends on the type of diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, which is usually diagnosed in children or young adults, the immune system starts fighting the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, a hormone that helps sugar get into the cells and turn into energy. Without enough insulin to get the sugar to the cells where it needs to be, sugar begins to accumulate in the bloodstream [source: Mayo Clinic].

In type 2 diabetes, which is the more common type, the body either doesn't properly use the insulin or simply doesn't produce enough insulin, causing the same sugar buildup that characterizes type 1 diabetes [source: American Diabetes Association]. That's why people with diabetes have high levels of blood sugar.

About one in three people who have diabetes have some type of skin disorder [source: American Diabetes Association]. Diabetes usually affects skin in two ways: through high blood sugar levels and through nerve damage caused by a number of different factors associated with diabetes [source: National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse]. These aspects of diabetes can cause dry skin or lead to more serious skin conditions. In addition, sometimes a skin condition serves as a warning sign of diabetes.

If you're wondering what having high blood sugar could possibly have to do with your skin, keep reading.