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Vaginal, skin infections signs of diabetes – Experts

Lara Adejoro

Medical experts have said recurrent vaginal and skin infections could be signs of diabetes.

The experts also said diabetes could increase the risk of pneumonia and make it harder to fight off the infection once it develops.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood glucose.

A study published in 2021 by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information found that diabetes presents a significant risk factor for all kinds of infections and increases the rate of outpatient infections as well as the incidence of infections requiring hospitalisation.

The cohort study titled, ‘Diabetes Mellitus and Infections’, found that respiratory infections, skin and soft tissue infections, and gastrointestinal and genitourinary infections all appear to occur more frequently in those with DM.

“Not only are they more frequent, but these infections also appear to have a poorer response to therapy and more rapid progression to severe forms of infection. There is good evidence that reduction of hyperglycemia can improve outcomes,” the study led by a Clinical Assistant Professor, Endocrinology and Metabolism Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Keren Zhou, showed.

Zhou said diabetes represents an incredibly important risk factor for infection, raising the likelihood of infection for both outpatient treated conditions and those which lead to hospitalisation.

“Beyond raising the risk for contracting an infection, the prognosis is frequently worse for many of these conditions which increase the frequency of rare and life-threatening infectious processes seen in those with DM.

“This is the consequence of disturbances in the immune system which have been well described involving both innate and adaptive immunity. However, glucose-lowering therapies appear to be able to counteract some of the increased risks of infection and worsened prognosis by improving the function of immune cells.”

Speaking with our correspondent, a Professor of Medicine at the College of Medicine, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu, Christian Okafor, explained that when the blood sugar is high, it suppresses the immune system of the body, which is the ability of the body to fight off infections and because of that such people are exposed to infections.

Okafor, who is also a Consultant Physician and Endocrinologist at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, Ituku-Ozalla, Enugu, said “The common infections are those you find on the skin like boils.

“For women, vagina infections may occur often because these organisms multiply unchecked and the high sugar environment also attracts them and it is like food to them and you find them multiply.

 “It’s not only vaginal or skin infections, even respiratory tract infections, pneumonia are also common because the immune system is eating down.”

Corroborating Okafor, a Consultant Physician, Dermatologist and Venereologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja, Dr. Olufolakemi Cole-Adeife, said skin health was often a reflection of general health and could be a pointer to issues like diabetes.

Cole-Adeife, on her Instagram page @flakydancindoc wrote, “Recurrent fungal skin or vaginal (yeast) infections could be a sign of elevated blood sugar. Also, wounds or sores that refuse to heal, especially on the feet, could be another pointer.”

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