In this article we’ll explore some of the skin conditions that are common in the obese population, as per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States. Many of these conditions are indicative of future diabetes. These skin conditions may occur in obese children, teens, and/or adults. The good news is, with proper diet and exercise many of these conditions can be handled. Work with a medical health professional to get your health and weight under control.
Obese vs Overweight
There is a difference between obesity and being overweight. Obesity is when a patient has higher than normal body fat and therefore more body weight as well. While on the other hand, being overweight is when the patient weighs more than normal. The difference is body fat vs body weight. While both overweight and obese mean the person has more weight than is considered healthy, obesity is a greater health concern, especially when it comes to skin physiology. There are a range of dermatological conditions associated with obesity, which we’ll discuss at length below. Keep in mind, obesity can cause many changes in the skin, including acne, dryness, skin breakdown, fungus growth, and more.
Skin Conditions in the Obese Population
Intertriginous Dermatitis, also called Intertrigo, or ITD is the most common condition among obese people and it’s caused by moisture, perspiration, urine, or stool found in axillary, inframammary, and inguinal skin folds. To deal with this condition, simply use a soft pad or linen to absorb moisture from any at-risk or affected skin. If the ITD is caused by urine or stool, use high-air flow incontinence pads in order to reduce friction and moisture. Also, try to avoid any products that contain alcohol, perfume, and chlorhexidine gluconate, as they too can get into skin folds, causing this condition.
Who is Most At Risk of Developing Intertriginous Dermatitis?
- Patients with skin folds
- Hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating)
- Using steroids
- Urinary and fecal incontinence
Acanthosis Nigricans is a condition that often indicates the patient may develop diabetes in the future. The condition causes brown skin patches to form around the skin. This happens because epidermal skin cells reproduce at a rapid rate due to high levels of insulin in the blood. When these new cells develop they contain large amounts of melanin, which darken the skin. Because obese people may develop insulin resistance and diabetes in their lifetimes, they are at risk of developing Acanthosis Nigricans.
How Can Acanthosis Nigricans be Managed?
- Proper diet
- Control of blood glucose levels
- Cosmetic treatment (in some cases)
- Antibacterial soap
- Laser therapy (to lighten skin)
- Oral acne medications
Hyperkeratosis happens when a lot of pressure and/or friction is put on the foot, though, it can occur in other areas too. Excess weight causes plantar hyperkeratosis or the thickening of the soles of the feet, causing itchy, scaly patches that can range in color, from bluish-purple to red, brown or black.
How Can Hyperkeratosis be Managed?
- Weight Loss
- Orthotic shoe inserts (to prevent breakdown of bony prominences)
- Skin softeners, like lotion, and petroleum jelly
- Maintenance with a healthcare professional
For the obese population, pressure injuries can occur nearly everywhere on the body, as opposed to those of a “normal weight,” who tend to incur pressure injuries only over bony prominences. This may include pressure injuries to the buttocks, buttock cleft, calves, and hips.
How Can Pressure Injuries be Managed?
- Using proper equipment
- Looking at the skin and evaluating it for tissue damage
Erythrasma is a skin infection, caused by Corynebacterium minutissimum, where patches of brown appear on the patient’s skin. Unfortunately, this condition can be a future marker of type 2 diabetes. In addition to affecting obese people, this condition most commonly affects people in warmer climates.
How Can Erythrasma be Managed?
- Keep the area clean and dry
- Use antibiotics if needed
- Don’t wear occlusive dressing
Why is Self-Inspection Important?
For obese patients, self skin inspection is incredibly important. If you think you may have one of the skin conditions listed above, get in touch with your health care professional. This is important for two reasons. First, because you want to be able to address your skin condition with medication, care, and any lifestyle changes that may correct it. Second, because these skin conditions are often indicative of future diabetes, taking care of your health is of the utmost importance.
Contact Wound Care OC for wound treatment in Orange County, CA
Dr. Faried Banimahd is a board-certified physician specializing in emergency medicine, wound care, and pain management. Our team will work with you to create an individualized treatment plan that meets your needs and unique conditions. Our clinic includes highly trained and experienced physicians, registered nurses, and certified medical staff who work together to provide you with the highest standards of wound care treatments.