Sometimes diabetics forget to take care of one of the most important parts of the body: the skin. An estimated one-third of diabetics will develop a skin disorder that is caused or affected by diabetes1, so caring for your skin is very important.
The skin can be greatly affected by diabetes. Diabetics may suffer from itching, rashes, blisters, and other potentially serious skin conditions. People with high blood sugar levels often have dry skin and can also have difficulty fighting off bacteria; these conditions make the chance of infection more likely. Moreover, people with diabetic neuropathy often have more severe skin conditions. Nerve damage can prevent them from feeling pain caused by cuts, chaffing, and so on.
The best treatment for these skin problems is to keep your blood sugar levels under control. There are many other steps you can take to care for your skin, as well.
- Prevent dry skin by moisturizing, especially when the weather is cold or windy. Use lotion regularly to soften and soothe your skin. Look for specially-formulated lotions for diabetics that can be used between the toes. Don’t use regular lotion between the toes; it may encourage bacteria to grow, increasing the chance of infection.
- Prevent sunburns by using a moisturizing sun block and by limiting exposure to the sun.
- Hot showers and baths can dry out your skin. Some soaps and bubble baths may strip your skin of its natural oils, too. Use mild, moisturizing soaps and shampoos to avoid this problem. You may want to reduce your frequency of bathing during the winter, when dry indoor air can further sap your skin of moisture. Using a humidifier during the cold months may lessen the drying effect, as well.
- If you get a cut, treat it immediately. Clean the area with soap and water, then apply an antibiotic cream that has been approved by your doctor. Don’t clean a cut with strong substances such as alcohol or iodine, as these can be abrasive to your skin. For major cuts, infections, or burns, see your doctor rather than trying to treat these conditions yourself.
Prevention is the best way to care for your skin, so monitor your blood sugar levels carefully and treat any skin problems right away. As with any condition, be sure to see your doctor if your problem does not respond to the appropriate initial treatment.