High glucose levels (hyperglycemia) put diabetics at higher risk for fungal infections. For diabetics, these infections are more than uncomfortable. Diabetes also compromises circulation and the immune system, making it more difficult to fight off infection. Additionally, any open sores that develop create a gateway for other infections to invade and cause potential complications. However, if you know how to identify and prevent skin fungal infections, you’ll catch any problems in the early, more easily treated stages.
Fungal Infections: The Most Common and What to Look For
Candida albicans is one of the most common fungal infections associated with diabetes. It’s much like a yeast infection, causing moist, red areas with scales and blisters. This itchy infection often occurs in warm, moist areas of the skin, such as between the fingers and toes, around the nails, and in the armpits and groin.
Tinea corporis (Ringworm)
Ringworm’s name is misleading. This fungal infection is in no way a worm. However, it does leave behind a telltale red-ringed rash with some clear skin and red bumps in the middle. The rings may grow in size, or multiple overlapping rings may develop.
Ringworm can develop anywhere on the body that comes in contact with the infecting fungus. However, different types of ringworm, like tinea cruris and tinea pedis, are known by the more familiar terms jock itch and athlete’s foot.
Tinea cruris, or jock itch, generally develops in warm moist areas like the groin or inner thighs. Athletes, people who are overweight, and other groups who perspire more than average are more likely to develop this fungal infection.
Tinea pedis, otherwise known as athlete’s foot, causes a scaly rash that burns and stings. It develops in the moist environment of a shoe that’s too tight. It’s common among athletes, hence the name. Athlete’s foot is highly contagious, which is why it’s a good idea to wear flip flops or other footwear in a locker room shower.
Your skin naturally has yeast on its surface. However, if there’s a break in the skin, a weakened immune system, or the higher glucose levels of diabetes, the yeast can overgrow, causing an itchy infection.
The location of the yeast infection determines how it manifests. For example, in the skin folds or around the navel, it looks like a red rash with oozing patches that itch and burn. When the nail beds develop a yeast infection, they become painful, swell, and separate from the nailbed.
4 Ways to Prevent Skin Fungal Infections
1. Manage your diabetes to the best of your abilities
Careful diabetes management can keep glucose levels in the normal range, where they’re less likely to feed a fungal infection. Vigilance in managing your blood sugar can prevent a whole host of complications that go well beyond fungi.
2. Perform daily skin inspections
Do a daily skin check from head to toe(s). Use a hand mirror to check behind the knees or anywhere else you can’t quite see. Be aware of red spots, dry spots, or other signs of irritation.
If you notice something suspicious, take action right away. Call your doctor if your efforts to treat the affected area don’t clear up the issue within a day or two. It’s best to be proactive to avoid more severe complications.
3. Thoroughly wash and dry the skin
Thoroughly wash and dry your skin after you shower or bathe. Clean, dry skin is especially important in skin folds and body creases like between the toes, behind the knees, and in the groin area. Avoid overly hot showers or baths because they can dry and irritate the skin.
4. Moisturize with antifungal skincare products
Your goal is to maintain the skin’s integrity. From your soap and cleanser to your daily moisturizer, use gentle products designed to hydrate and protect the skin from fungal infections. VitalFit’s Daily Moisturizer, for example, has antifungal ingredients that help prevent infections in the body’s susceptible areas like between the toes, elbow creases, and behind the knees. Try using a healing moisturizer at night to support the healing that takes place while you sleep.
5. Wear breathable clothing and shoes
Fungi love warm, moist environments. Breathable clothing and shoes let perspiration and heat escape. Skip shoes that are tight or too small. They can not only cause blisters and chafing but also trap heat and moisture.
Wear breathable clothing when you exercise, too. After you exercise, shower as soon as you can. The groin area and under the breasts are particularly susceptible to fungal infections due to perspiration.