Skin Care & Diabetes

Reviewed By:
Nikheel Kolatkar, M.D.


Diabetes can affect almost every part of the body. It Diabetes mellitus is a disorder in the body's ability to break down blood sugar (glucose).frequently causes skin problems. In some cases, these conditions are specific to people with diabetes. For example, the skin of diabetic individuals tends to be thicker than that of nondiabetics. Other conditions, such as dry skin, are common in the general population but may be more severe for people with diabetes.

Many diabetic skin problems occur when glucose (blood sugar) levels are too high. High glucose (hyperglycemia) causes fluid loss because the body turns water into urine in an attempt to rid the body of the excess glucose.

People with diabetes who develop skin conditions are advised to seek medical treatment. This is particularly true if the condition causes itchiness and chronic scratching, which can lead to infection and cause complications.

People with diabetes can take precautions to ward off skin problems. Controlling glucose levels is the primary means of preventing skin from drying or becoming infected with bacteria. Patients can also take other steps, such as using a humidifier to keep air moist in the winter or keeping skin clean and moisturized.

In addition, skin ointments can help people with diabetes treat some skin conditions. These ointments include emollients, urea-based products, and corticosteroid and antimicrobial Diabetic neuropathy is nerve damage that can affect sensation, muscle strength or both.creams. Different ointments are appropriate for different conditions. For example, moisturizers can prevent dry skin, which occurs when high glucose levels or the nerve disease diabetic neuropathy cause the body to lose fluids. Antibiotic creams may treat bacterial infections, and antifungals help fight nail fungus and yeast infections.

About skin care and diabetes

Skin problems are a common complication of diabetes. As many as one-third of people with diabetes experience a skin disorder at some point in their lives, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). In some cases, skin disorders are the first symptom of diabetes that a patient experiences.

Skin conditions are often more dangerous to people with diabetes than they are to the general population. The high levels of glucose (blood sugar) associated with diabetes prevent rapid healing, allowing even minor cuts to progress to serious infections.

Diabetic skin conditions include:

Diabetic Neuropathy

People with diabetes can take several preventive measures to ensure that their skin stays healthy. This includes keeping skin moisturized and clean. People with diabetes have to pay close attention to the skin on their feet, as this is a frequent site of skin injuries and often leads to complications.

In some cases, medications may be necessary to treat a skin condition and to keep it from progressing. Skin ointments used to treat dry skin come in different forms and include:

The National Skin Care Institute advises people with diabetes that regular use of oil-based products can reduce the skinís creation of natural oils. It recommends shielding lotions, which protect the skin from loss of moisture, draw additional moisture from the air, protect against irritants and are not lost during bathing.

Types of skin conditions

People with diabetes are prone to several kinds of skin conditions resulting from high glucose (blood sugar) levels. Some skin conditions occur only or mainly in people with diabetes. They include:

Conditions that are associated with diabetes, but which are also common in the general population, include:

Infections can also occur in other areas, such as surrounding the fingernails or toenails. Infections can cause tissues to become inflamed, leaving the area hot, swollen, red and painful. Staphylococcus bacteria, also called staph, are among the organisms that most often cause infections.


Treatment and prevention of skin conditions

Because skin conditions have such major consequences for people with diabetes, it is important to take preventative measures that will reduce the likelihood of suffering from dry skin or infections. To help keep skin healthy, people with diabetes are advised t

glucose meter

In some cases, medications may be necessary to treat skin conditions related to diabetes. Such ointments include:

People with diabetes should also keep their own first-aid kit to immediately treat minor injuries and to prevent them from progressing. A kit should include:

Patients are advised to consult their physician about which skin conditions can be treated at home and which need the attention of a dermatologist or other physician.

Questions for your doctor regarding skin care 

Preparing questions in advance can help patients have more meaningful discussions with their physicians regarding their conditions. Patients may wish to ask their doctor the following questions about skin care and diabetes:

  1. What kind of skin care should I do myself?
  2. How often should I perform skin care?
  3. Do you recommend certain skin care products for me?
  4. Are there any skin care products I should avoid?
  5. Can I occasionally use oil-based products, or should I use shielding lotions instead?
  6. Should I apply skin care products everywhere, or avoid them in places that may harbor moisture, such as between my toes?
  7. Should I bathe daily, or less often in cold and dry weather?
  8. Can the seasons affect my skin care routine in other ways? Are there certain things I should do only in summer or only in winter?
  9. How often should I have a doctor inspect my skin?
  10. Should I see a dermatologist regularly or only if I have certain conditions?
  11. What skin conditions require prompt medical attention?
  12. How can I prevent diabetic skin disorders?