Skin Care and Infections

Diabetes can affect every part of the body, including the skin. As many as 1/3 of people with diabetes will have a skin disorder caused or affected by diabetes at some time in their lives. Most skin conditions can be prevented or easily treated if caught early. Talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about skin changes or infection.

What Can I Do to Prevent Skin Problems?

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

    Keep your diabetes well managed.
    Keep skin clean and dry. Use talcum powder in areas where skin touches skin, such as armpits and groin.
    Avoid very hot baths and showers. If your skin is dry, don’t use bubble baths. Moisturizing soaps may help. Afterward, use a standard skin lotion, but don’t put lotions between toes. The extra moisture there can encourage fungus to grow.
    Prevent dry skin. Scratching dry or itchy skin can open it up and allow infection to set in. Moisturize your skin to prevent chapping, especially in cold or windy weather.
    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.
    During cold, dry months, keep your home more humid. Bathe less during this weather, if possible.
    Use mild shampoos.
    Do not use feminine hygiene sprays.
    Take good care of your feet. Check them every day for sores and cuts. Wear broad, flat shoes that fit well. Check your shoes for foreign objects before putting them on.
    Talk to your doctor or dermatologist (skin doctor) if you are not able to solve a skin problem yourself.
How Does Managing My Diabetes Change My Risk for Skin Problems?

Keeping your diabetes well managed helps prevent skin problems. High blood glucose levels can increase your risk of infection by:

    Pulling water from the skin, making it dry and more likely to crack. This can allow germs to enter.
    Causing blood vessels close to the skin to narrow or clog.
    Causing nerve damage over time. This can decrease the amount you sweat also causing dry skin.
    Lowering your ability to fend off harmful bacteria.

What are the most common skin infections?

Scientists aren’t sure what causes type 1 diabetes. It is not contagious and it is not caused by eating sugar. Research is under way to find the exact causes of type 1 diabetes and how it might be prevented.

Bacterial Infections

Staph bacteria is the most common and serious type. These infections can spread into the skin and become quite serious. Antibiotics are used as treatment.
Several kinds of bacterial infections occur in people with diabetes:

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

Fungal Infections

Most fungal infections in people with diabetes are caused by Candida albicans. This yeast-like fungus can create itchy rashes of moist, red areas surrounded by tiny blisters and scales. These infections occur
in warm, moist areas such as between your toes, in the groin, and under the breasts. Untreated fungal infections can be dangerous because they allow for more serious bacterial infections to enter the body.
Types of fungal infections include:

    jock itch.
    athlete’s feet.