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Diabetes and your Skin


What do I need to know about diabetes and my skin?

Diabetes can affect every part of your body, including your skin. Diabetes that is not well controlled can damage blood vessels and nerves. Damage to blood vessels can make it hard for blood to flow to tissues and organs. A lack of blood flow to your skin can cause ulcers that are difficult to heal. Skin ulcers are also called sores. People with diabetes can also have more bacterial skin infections than other people. Most skin conditions can be prevented with good blood sugar control. Skin sores can be hard to heal, or become life or limb-threatening, if not treated early.

What are common skin changes that I may see?

  • A smooth, dark thickness in the skin on your neck, groin, face and underarms
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Skin tags on your eyelids, neck, or underarms
  • Yellow color of your palms, soles of your feet, and nails
  • Dark patches on your shins
  • A constant redness of your face and neck
  • Thick skin on the back of your hands and the top of your feet

How can I prevent skin sores?

  • Keep your blood sugar within target range. Your healthcare provider will tell you what your blood sugar levels should be. High blood sugar levels increase your risk for skin infections and poor wound healing.
  • Keep your skin clean. Do not take hot baths or showers. They can cause your skin to get dry. Do not take a bubble bath if you have dry skin. Use moisturizing soaps.
  • Keep your skin from becoming too dry. Apply moisturizing lotion after baths or showers, especially in cold, dry weather. When you scratch dry, itchy skin, you can cause your skin to be open to infection. Bathe less during cold weather and use lotion to moisturize. Do not put lotion between your toes. . Moisture between your toes could lead to skin breakdown. Use a humidifier to keep air in your home from being dry.
  • Keep areas where skin touches skin dry. Use talcum powder in areas such as armpits and groin. You may also need it under your breasts, and between your toes. Moisture in these areas can cause a fungal infection.
  • Treat cuts immediately. Clean minor cuts with soap and water. Cover them with sterile gauze.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You get a severe burn or cut.
  • You have a sore that is painful, warm to the touch, or has redness around it.
  • Your sore does not get better or seems to get worse.
  • You have a fever.
  • Your blood sugar levels continue to be higher than they should be.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.