High blood sugar affects every body process from the pancreas, to the brain, even the skin! Caring for your skin is an integral part of managing diabetes.
Establish yourself with a Dermatologist (skin doctor.) It is recommended to have a “skin check” once per year. If your Dermatologist recognizes any suspicious lesions, irregular moles, or skin cancers, they may recommend a skin check every 6 months just to be safe. With some insurance plans, an annual skin check is covered at 100% as preventive care!
While everyone should have their skin checked regularly for suspicious lesions and skin cancers, it is especially important for diabetics to follow with a Dermatologist. They can monitor any lesions or wounds that are not healing well, helping to prevent infection. This is crucial for areas that you cannot check yourself (like your shoulders and back.)
Individuals that do not have high blood sugar can suffer some of the same skin conditions as diabetics, including dry skin and various skin infections. However, having high blood sugar can exacerbate these conditions. Bacterial and fungal infections can be more common in diabetics because immunity and healing ability can be compromised by high blood sugar levels.
Folliculitis (infections in the hair follicles), carbuncles (infections in the tissue deep under the skin), and infections around the fingernails or toenails are some of the most common bacterial infections that occur in diabetics. Infected areas are usually inflamed, red, painful, and warm to the touch.
Fungal infections can create itchy rashes. These infections often occur in warm, moist folds of the skin like under the breasts, between fingers and toes, in the corners of the mouth, under the armpits and in the groin. The most common fungal infections are jock itch, athlete’s foot, and ringworm.
See your dermatologist if you suspect that you have a bacterial or fungal infection. These may not resolve on their own, and can worsen over time without treatment.
While rare, diabetic blisters can occur. They can come up on hands, fingers, feet, toes, and occasionally on arms or legs. These blisters most often occur in people who have diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage cause by long-term out of control blood sugar.) They will likely heal by themselves, usually without scars, in a few weeks. The only treatment is to get blood sugar down and keep it down.
Keeping blood sugar under control not only helps prevent uncomfortable skin conditions, but benefits your overall health. Along with watching your sugar, there are plenty of things you can do to keep skin healthy.
Dry skin is very common in diabetics and non-diabetics alike, especially when the weather is very hot or very cold. Bathe or shower in lukewarm (not hot) water. Dry your skin well after bathing as lingering moisture can encourage fungal infections.
Moisturize your skin regularly. Ask your Dermatologist to recommend a good all-over moisturizer; you will likely be able to either purchase it at their office, or over-the-counter at your local pharmacy.
If skin is severely dry and becomes itchy or irritated, talk to your Dermatologist. They may recommend switching to gentle skin products, try changing your laundry detergent, or may even prescribe a cream or oral medication to help you get relief.
Be sure to treat all cuts and scrapes right away. Wash minor abrasions with soap and water. See a physician if your cut is deep, if you’ve been burned, or if you suspect infection. Don’t forget to take good care of your feet, as well!
Caring for your skin is important, especially for diabetics. The skin is the body’s largest organ and protects our bodies from infection and damage. Care for it, and your health will benefit!