Can diabetes cause skin problems?
Diabetes does cause skin problems for some people. Approximately one-third of all patients with
diabetes will develop some type of skin disorder covering a range of severity. The disorders
can be as minor as localized itching or severe enough to require amputation. It's important to
take all skin problems and conditions stemming from diabetes seriously and remember that even a
minor cut can lead to amputation of a limb if left untreated.
Dry skin can affect people with diabetes. High glucose levels and frequent urination commonly cause diabetic patients to become dehydrated. Dehydration, in turn, increases the tendency to develop dry skin. Dry skin can then crack and become infected with bacteria or fungi.
High blood glucose and poor circulation reduce the effectiveness of white blood cells (the infection-fighting cells). Therefore, an individual with diabetes will require medical care to prevent infection and compensate for his or her underperforming immune system.
People living with diabetes frequently experience itching and other skin changes. Diabetes can cause changes in the blood vessels and arteries, which can lead to changes in skin color. In addition, these individuals are at risk for developing other skin problems such as blisters, redness, rashes, or waxy skin.
If you have diabetes, these tips may help prevent skin damage and infections:
- Wash and dry your skin thoroughly, and maintain good hygiene. This improves your body's
ability to fight and resist infection.
- Use talcum powder to keep
skin dry in areas such as the groin where skin frequently rubs against itself.
- Use a mild soap with moisturizer, and apply skin
cream to your body after bathing. Avoid bubble baths.
- Apply foot cream to the
top and bottom of your feet. (Check the directions on the product you are using. Some products
should not be applied between the toes, due to increased risk of fungal infections).
- Avoid very hot water when bathing. Test the water to ensure that it is comfortably warm
before stepping into the tub.
- Use humidifiers
to keep your home humid during cold or dry months to prevent your skin from drying.
- Keep your blood sugar levels under control. Chronically high glucose levels are associated
with dry skin.
- Do not ignore any signs of wounds - particularly on the feet. Even the smallest cut can
progress to a serious infection. Clean all wounds with soap and water, and avoid products
containing alcohol and iodine. Cover the clean wound with sterile gauze, and use a topical
antibiotic only under a doctor's supervision.
- Consult your doctor immediately if you experience any wounds (burns, cuts, etc.) that look
- If you develop any chronic skin conditions, consider consulting a dermatologist (skin
It's a good idea to keep a record of your doctor's recommendations for moisturizing lotion
and other skin care products. Also, document the most recent date when a healthcare
professional examined your skin.
Find more health and self-help information in our comprehensive Diabetes Center.
View diabetes management products available on Walgreens.com.
If you're looking for more specific answers to specific questions, ask a Walgreens pharmacist here.