Diabetic Skin Troubles
We often take our skin for granted, but if you’ve ever had an itchy rash or a boil, you know how painful even a small skin problem can be. About one-third of people with diabetes get a skin problem sooner or later. Fortunately, most problems can be prevented or easily treated. Here are three common problems and how to prevent them.
Dry, itchy skin
When blood glucose is high, your body loses fluid. Diabetic nerve damage can also decrease sweating. Both can lead to dry skin.
To prevent dry skin, manage your blood sugar and drink plenty of fluids. When bathing, avoid very hot water and use mild soap. Then, dry well and apply moisturizer, but not between the toes or in skin folds since excess moisture in these areas can lead to fungal infections. Try using a humidifier in your home during cold, dry weather.
Vaginal yeast infections, athlete’s foot, jock itch, and ringworm show up as itchy, red rashes, sometimes with tiny blisters. Oftentimes, fungal infections can be caused by Candida albicans, a fungus that takes hold in warm, moist folds of skin.
To prevent fungal infections, keep your skin clean, and dry well after bathing. Sprinkle talcum powder in armpits, between toes, under breasts or in other places where skin touches skin. If you get a fungal infection, tell your health care provider. You may need prescription medication.
Sores that are red, swollen, and painful may be due to bacterial infections. Styes (an infected eyelid gland), boils, and folliculitis (an infected hair follicle) are common. A carbuncle is a deeper skin infection. Styes, boils, and carbuncles are commonly caused by Staphylococcus (“staph”) bacteria.
To prevent bacterial infections, take care of dry skin and avoid scratching it. Scratching can crack the skin, allowing an infection to start. Inspect your feet every day, and clean and bandage sores and cuts. Keep blood sugar controlled so that you can better prevent a bacterial infection. Check your skin daily. If a problem doesn’t go away, or you think you have an infection, see your health care provider right away.
- Grantham, Paula, RN, BSN
- MMI board-certified, academically-affiliated clinician