Diabetes can affect every part of the body, including the skin.As many as one out of three people who are living with diabetes will have a skin disorder caused or affected by diabetes at some time in their lives. In fact, sometimes such problems are the first sign that a person has diabetes. Some of these problems are skin conditions anyone can have, but people with diabetes get more easily. These include bacterial infections, fungal infections and itching. Other skin problems happen mostly, or only, to people with diabetes. These include diabetic dermopathy, necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum, diabetic blisters and eruptive xanthomatosis.
In addition to November being American Diabetes Month, it is also National Healthy Skin Month, so it’s the perfect time to talk about the topic of skin complications and diabetes. Luckily, most skin conditions can be prevented or easily treated if caught early. Good skin care is essential and there are several things you can do to head off skin problems. First and foremost, keeping your diabetes well managed is crucial to avoiding complications. People with high glucose levels tend to have dry skin and less ability to fend off harmful bacteria. Both conditions increase the risk of infection.
In addition, here are some tips on how to properly care for your skin:
- Keep skin clean and dry. Use talcum powder in areas where skin touches skin, such as armpits and groin.
- Avoid very hot baths and showers. If your skin is dry, don’t use bubble baths. Moisturizing soaps may help. Afterward, use a standard skin lotion, but don’t put lotions between toes. The extra moisture there can encourage fungus to grow.
- Prevent dry skin. Scratching dry or itchy skin can open it up and allow infection to set in. Moisturize your skin to prevent chapping, especially in cold or windy weather.
- Treat cuts right away. Wash minor cuts with soap and water. Do not use Mercurochrome antiseptic, alcohol or iodine to clean skin because they are too harsh. Only use an antibiotic cream or ointment if your doctor says it’s okay. Cover minor cuts with sterile gauze. See a doctor right away if you get a major cut, burn, or infection.
- During cold, dry months, keep your home more humid. Bathe less during this weather, if possible.
- Use mild shampoos. Do not use feminine hygiene sprays.
- See a dermatologist about skin problems if you are not able to solve them yourself.
- Take good care of your feet. Check them every day for sores and cuts. Wear broad, flat shoes that fit well. Check your shoes for foreign objects before putting them on.
To learn more about skin complications and care, visit our website. You may also be interested in our book, Uncomplicated Guide to Diabetes Complications, 3rd Edition.