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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 severe.
  • If you develop any chronic skin conditions, consider consulting a dermatologist (skin doctor).

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.

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Answers to questions regarding information about medications or health conditions are not for diagnostic or treatment purposes and are not conclusive as to the presence or absence of any health condition. Consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment of your medical condition. The information provided is not a substitute for medical advice. Advances in medicine may cause this information to become outdated, invalid or subject to debate. Professional opinions and interpretations of the scientific literature may vary. Walgreens' terms of use and general warranty disclaimer apply to all services provided. If you are in need of immediate medical attention, contact your physician, poison control center or emergency medical professional. If you need to speak with a pharmacist for non-emergency matters, contact your local Walgreens pharmacist or call a pharmacist toll-free at 1 (877) 250-5823.

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