The effects of diabetes reach far and wide, including one of the most visible organs—your skin. Your skin can often be the first indicator that diabetes is on the horizon. Good diabetes management, combined with a regular skincare regimen, can prevent painful and potentially dangerous skin complications.
How to Take Care of Diabetic Skin
Healthy skin care begins with awareness and vigilance. Diabetes changes how the body functions. Sometimes minute changes in routine or diet can directly affect the health of your skin. A regular skincare routine supported by consistent diabetes management gives you the best chance to prevent and treat any diabetes-related skin issues.
Manage Your Diabetes to the Best of Your Ability
Your skin stays healthier when the rest of your body is healthy. High glucose levels can dry the skin and reduce its ability to resist harmful bacteria. Either problem increases the risk of a skin infection. Diabetes can also make it difficult to heal from wounds or infection, making prevention that much more important.
However, be aware that some people are more susceptible to skin problems than others based on their genetic makeup, climate, or other underlying medical conditions.
Stay Hydrated and Moisturized
Do everything within your power to prevent dry skin. That includes daily moisturizer after you bathe or shower, periodically throughout the day, and again before you go to bed. Moisturizing cleansers can also help prevent overdrying. Sometimes skin dryness appears in patches, so use a mirror to check areas on your body that are out of your direct line of sight.
Try to avoid things that overly dry the skin, like long, hot baths or showers. If you live in a dry climate, consider using a humidifier to increase your home’s overall humidity. Your skin is more vulnerable to drying in the wind and cold, so you may need to be more vigilant about moisturizing in the winter.
Make a Skin Check Part of Your Routine
Skin problems can appear without warning and quickly get worse. Daily skin checks can help you prevent and stop potential problems. Many people include a skin check as part of their after shower routine.
When you moisturize your hands, arms, and upper body, take note of how your skin feels, its coloring, and if there are any painful areas. Changes in texture and color could be an early warning sign. Do the same thing when drying and moisturizing your lower body. Pay particular attention to elbow and knee creases, under the arms, and other places where the skin experiences friction.
Watch Your Feet
As a person with diabetes, your feet are particularly susceptible to open wounds and poor circulation. Diabetes’s effect on blood flow also slows the ability to heal. Check your feet every day for hotspots, sores, nicks, and cuts. Wear wide, comfortable shoes that do not rub or pinch. Check your shoes for rocks or any other debris that could rub your feet.
If you have any skin changes that you’re not able to heal by managing your diabetes and following a regular skincare routine, talk to your doctor.
Diabetic Skin Warning Signs
Unexplained skin changes can be an early indicator of diabetes. Before or after diagnosis, you should watch for:
- Brown, red, or yellowish skin patches
- Dark, velvety skin on the back of the neck, under the arms, and in the groin
- Hard, thick, waxy skin, particularly on the fingers and toes
- Large, unexplained blisters
- Frequent skin infections
- Sores and wounds that heal slowly
- Dark shin spots (larger and longer than age spots)
- Red, yellow, or flesh-colored bumps
- Dry, itchy skin
- Scaly patches near the eyelids
- Skin tags
Can your skin indicate whether you have diabetes?
Changes in the condition of your skin can be an indication of prediabetes. Dark, velvety skin on the back of the neck, in the armpit, or groin is often a first sign of uncontrolled blood sugar levels. Frequent infections, trouble healing, and dry, itchy skin can also indicate diabetes. However, these symptoms alone don’t mean you have diabetes. If you’re concerned, consult a medical professional.
What does diabetic skin look like?
Healthy diabetic skin should look like any other person’s skin. However, people with diabetes are more susceptible to certain infections, such as Candida albicans, a fungal infection that causes a red, itchy rash with blisters and scales around it. They’re also prone to diabetic dermopathy, red/brown patches that look like scars. The most common and consistent skin condition among those with high blood sugar levels is excessively dry, flaky skin.
How often should I moisturize my skin?
Daily moisturizing is a vital part of caring for diabetic skin. If you live in a dry climate, you may need to apply a moisturizer several times a day. The same may be true during the cold, winter months.