People who have diabetes are at greater risk for skin problems. In fact, one-third of people who have diabetes will develop a skin problem caused or affected by their diabetes. Some skin problems are complications of diabetes. Others are the same skin problems other people have, only people who have diabetes are at higher risk for them. You can prevent or easily treat most problematic skin conditions by following these tips:
- Keep your blood glucose under good control. When your blood glucose is high, you're less able to fight off bacteria.
- Keep your skin clean and dry. Bathe in lukewarm — not hot — water. Use a gentle moisturizing soap, such as Dove or Basis. Pat — don't rub — your skin dry with a soft towel. Use cornstarch-based powder in areas where skin touches skin, such as armpits, beneath breasts, and groin.
- Moisturize your skin. Apply a moisturizing lotion after bathing and throughout the day. Don't put lotion between the toes. It can encourage fungal growth. Use extra lotion during cold or windy periods.
- Treat cuts immediately. Wash minor cuts with soap and water. Avoid using alcohol, iodine, Mercurochrome, or other harsh agents. Instead, ask your doctor if you can use an antibiotic cream or ointment. Cover cuts with sterile, nonstick gauze pads. Watch for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus. If you develop an infection or have a major cut or burn, see your doctor immediately.
Humidify. Skin dries out more in cold winter months. Try bathing less often during these times, and use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
Avoid chemicals that can dry your skin. Don't use harsh soaps, chemicals, cleaners, or solvents. If you must use them, wear protective rubber gloves. Opt for unscented products and mild shampoos. Never use feminine hygiene sprays.
Get professional help. If you develop skin problems, talk with your doctor immediately.
Written by Bobbie Hasselbring
Reviewed by Beth Seltzer, MD
Last updated June 2008