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Diabetes and Your Skin

If you've got diabetes, you're at higher risk for a wide range of skin complications. You can do a lot to reduce those risks. These simple diabetic skin care tips can help.

Common Diabetic Skin Complications

  • Bacterial and fungal skin infections  are a very common complication for people with diabetes, and often result when a bacteria or fungus invades a cut; scratch; dry, cracked skin; or other wounds.
  • Acanthosis nigricans is a frequent diabetes skin problem, especially for Latinos and African-Americans. Characterized by tan or brown, velvety skin developing at the neck, groin, and underarms, acanthosis nigricans is often a sign of insulin resistance.
  • The brown, scaly patches of diabetic dermopathyare often mistaken for age spots. Small oval or circular, and harmless, these spots tend to occur on the front of both legs.
  • Lower extremity changes like ulcers, erosions, or discoloration are another common skin complication associated with diabetes and are often the result of poor circulation.

6 Diabetic Skin Care Tips

  • Get educated. One key to preventing diabetic skin problems is to understand what causes them. Talk to your doctor. Learn about diabetic skin complications, what your particular risks are, and how you can lower them.
  • Control your diabetes.  Getting -- and keeping -- your blood glucose within normal range can go far toward preventing common diabetic skin complications. If you're already experiencing skin issues, managing your diabetes can help prevent problems from getting worse.

To get a handle on your diabetes, strive for a healthy weight, eat right, cut back on salt, maintain a healthy blood pressure, and exercise. That's a tall order, but talk to your health care team for support.

  • Be aware.  If you suffer from diabetic nerve damage (neuropathy), you could have an infected cut, scratch, or skin puncture and not know it. Don't let a small problem turn into a big one -- be aware of your body. Check your feet, ankles, in between your toes and legs regularly for wounds that aren't healing.
  • Do something about wounds and sores. Don't neglect wound care. If you find a nick, a scratch, a small cut, anything that isn't healing or that worries you, talk to your doctor immediately.
  • Cover up.  This simple first line of defense can help you avoid the cuts and scratches that can lead to infection. Whether you're gardening or walking the dog, cover your legs with long pants and your feet with flat, good-fitting shoes.
  • Practice good skin care.  Keeping skin clean and dry, but not too dry, is key to good diabetic skin care. 

To take care of your skin:

  • Keep skin comfortably dry, especially at armpits, toes, and groin. Talcum powder can help.
  • But avoid drying skin out. Skin that's too dry can crack, itch, and get infected, so prevent that by taking short, lukewarm showers or baths and using mild soaps and shampoos when you wash. Avoid deodorant or scented cleansers, which can be harsh on sensitive skin.
  • Moisturize if your skin is dry. The best time to moisturize is right after a shower or bath, when skin is still moist.
  • Dry well by patting gently -- don't rub -- focusing on underarms, between legs, under breasts, and between toes.

Basic skin care can go far toward helping you prevent diabetic skin complications, but if you have questions, or if a cut, scrape, or bruise worries you, talk to your doctor or dermatologist right away.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on November 02, 2013

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People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

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One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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