As many as one out of three people living with diabetes will have a skin disorder caused or affected by diabetes at some time in their lives. In fact, such problems can even be the first sign that a person has diabetes.
The good news is that most skin conditions can be prevented or easily treated if you catch them early. Here are five things to know.
People with diabetes are more susceptible to common skin problems.
Some of these problems are skin conditions anyone can have, but people with diabetes get more easily—like bacterial infections, fungal infections and itching. Specific examples include styes, athlete’s foot and yeast infections.
Some skin issues are specific to people with diabetes.
Other problems are more rare and happen mostly or only to people with diabetes. These include diabetic dermopathy, necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum, diabetic blisters and eruptive xanthomatosis. Treatment often entails taking prescription medications and/or bringing your blood glucose back under control.
Another common skin condition in people with diabetes is acanthosis nigricans. It causes a raised, velvety discoloration, often around the neck or armpits, and is sometimes called “dirty neck” syndrome because of the way it looks. It’s most common among African Americans and Hispanics, and it is sometimes the first sign of diabetes in someone who is undiagnosed.
Keeping your blood glucose in good control can help.
People with high blood glucose levels tend to have dry skin. This is partly because when your blood glucose is elevated, you urinate more in an attempt to flush out the excess glucose. That gets rid of necessary fluids that keep skin hydrated.
If your blood glucose levels are high, you are also less able to fend off harmful bacteria. Both of these factors increase the risk of infection.
Good skin care also goes a long way.
Ward off problems with these skin care tips.
- Keep your skin clean and dry.
- Avoid very hot baths and showers, harsh soaps and other products that will dry out your skin.
- Use skin lotion, especially in cold or windy weather, but not between your toes. (The extra moisture there can encourage fungus to grow.)
- Don’t scratch! Scratching dry or itchy skin can open it up and allow infection to set in.
- Treat cuts right away. Wash minor cuts with soap and water. 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.
- Be prepared for winter weather! Keep your home more humid and bathe less during this season, if possible.
Diabetes Forecast magazine has 12 skin care tips just for your hands and fingers. Read more to find out how even adjusting the way your check your blood glucose can make a difference in how your skin feels.
Take extra-good care of your feet.
People with diabetes can develop many different foot problems. Even ordinary problems can get worse and lead to serious complications, such as amputation.
Check your feet every day for sores and cuts. Wear broad, flat shoes that fit well. Look for foreign objects before putting on your shoes. Seek care early if you do get a foot injury. Learn more about proper foot care for people with diabetes.
If you think you have a skin infection or other condition that you can’t resolve on your own, see a dermatologist for proper diagnosis and treatment. (Your diabetes care professional can refer you to one, if you need it.)
We hope you’ll keep your skin healthy and glowing this winter, and all year long!