Diabetes and Skin Complications: What You Need to Know

Did you know that diabetes can cause skin problems? There are a few different types of diabetes-related skin conditions, and they can range from mild to severe. In this blog post, we will discuss common general skin complications you may face with diabetes. If you have diabetes, it is important to be aware of these potential complications and take steps to protect your skin!

Diabetes and Skin Conditions

Diabetes can affect every aspect of the body, including the skin. In fact, skin issues are sometimes the first indication that someone has diabetes. Some skin complications are cause for concern, while others may be harmless. Regardless, keep an eye on your skin and consult with your doctor if you notice anything unusual. Most skin conditions associated with diabetes can be prevented or easily treated if caught early on.

General Skin Conditions

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial infections, which affect the eyes and skin, are one of the most common health problems in people with diabetes. Bacterial infections may include:

  • Styes (infections of the glands of the eyelid)
  • Boils
  • Folliculitis (infections of the hair follicles)
  • Carbuncles (deep infections of the skin and the tissue underneath)
  • Infections around the nails

Inflammation of the tissues is generally hot, swollen, red, and painful. Many types of bacteria may cause infections, including Staphylococcus species, commonly known as staph.

Bacterial infections were formerly a serious threat, particularly for those with diabetes. Thanks to recent advances in medicine, including antibiotics and improved approaches for blood sugar management, death is rare.

Still, it’s important to know that those with diabetes have more bacterial infections than other people do. Doctors believe people with diabetes can reduce their chances of these infections by practicing good skin care.

Fungal Infections

Candida albicans is frequently blamed for fungal infections in persons with diabetes. Candida albicans is a fungus that can induce moist, red areas with tiny blisters and scales, as well as itchy rashes. Warm, wet places of the skin are where these infections originate. Problem areas include under the breasts, around the nails, between fingers and toes, in the corners of the mouth, under the foreskin (in uncircumcised men), and in the armpits and groin.

Jock itch, athlete’s foot, ringworm (a ring-shaped itchy patch), and vaginal itching can all be signs of fungal infections.

Itching

Itchy skin can be caused by diabetes. It can be caused by a yeast infection, dry skin, or poor circulation. When itching is caused by poor circulation, the itchiest regions are often the lower portions of the legs.

You may be able to treat itching yourself. A couple options are to limit how often you bathe, particularly when the humidity is low. Frequent bathing can dry out the skin. You may also try using mild soap with moisturizer and apply skin cream after bathing.

If you think you have a bacterial or fungal infection or are suffering from itching that you can’t resolve on your own, contact your doctor and set up an appointment to discuss your options.

Practicing Good Skin Care

There are several things you can do to prevent skin problems:

  • Keep your diabetes under control. People who have diabetes are more prone to dry skin and are less likely to be able to prevent harmful bacteria. Both of these increase the risk of infection.
  • Keep your skin clean and dry. 
  • Avoid taking extremely hot baths and showers. If your skin is dry, don’t use bubble baths or other heavily perfumed products. Moisturizing soaps may be beneficial. After your shower, use a standard skin lotion, but don’t put lotions between toes. The extra moisture there can encourage fungus to grow.
  • Prevent dry skin from developing. Scratching dry or itchy skin can open it up and allow infection to set in. Moisturize your skin with lotion to prevent chapping, especially in cold or windy weather and throughout the winter.
  • 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 to do so. 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. You may consider investing in a humidifier. Bathing less during this type weather may also be beneficial in preventing dry skin.
  • Use mild shampoos that aren’t heavily fragranced. 
  • Do not use feminine hygiene sprays.
  • See a dermatologist about skin problems or skin concerns.
  • Check your feet every day for cuts, sores, or changes. Investing in broad, flat shoes that fit well can also be beneficial for your comfort. Check your shoes for foreign objects before putting them on.

You Can Manage Skin Complications with Diabetes

There you have it! With a little bit of care and precaution, you can manage diabetes and still have healthy, happy skin. If you’re experiencing any diabetes-related skin problems, talk to your doctor. They can help you determine the best course of action for treatment. Keep an eye out for our next blog where we cover diabetes-specific skin-related conditions. 

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