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Diabetic Skin Care: How to Address Skin Complications Associated with Diabetes

Did you know that as many as 33 percent* of people with diabetes will have a skin disorder caused or affected by diabetes? These problems are sometimes the first sign that a person has diabetes.

Fortunately, most diabetic skin conditions can be prevented or easily treated if caught early. Some of these problems are skin conditions anyone can have; however, people with diabetes tend to experience these more commonly. Here, we explore various diabetic skin conditions and how these can be addressed through good skin care.

Three Diabetic Skin Conditions

Common diabetic skin conditions include:

  • Bacterial growth
  • Fungal irritations and
  • Itching

Bacterial growth: Skin infections caused by Staphylococcus bacteria are most common. Bacterial infections are most likely to occur in areas where hair follicles can become irritated, such as the groin or axilla areas, while nail infections are also common. Use of a pH-balanced antimicrobial cleanser can help reduce and inhibit bacterial growth.

Fungal irritations: A yeast-like fungus called Candida Albicans is responsible for many fungal irritations affecting people with diabetes and most often occurs in warm, moist folds of the skin. Other common areas affected are between the toes and fingers and in the nails. Fungal irritations create itchy, bright red rashes, often surrounded by tiny blisters and scales. Use of an antifungal can help address these types of fungal irritations.

Itching: While localized itching is often caused by diabetes, it can also be caused by a yeast infection. Symptoms include dry skin and poor circulation. Scratching dry or itchy skin can open it up and allow infection to set in. Various creams or powders may aid in relieving dry or itchy skin.

Steps for Addressing Diabetic Skin Conditions

People with diabetes can help reduce their chances of experiencing common skin complications and improve the health of their skin by practicing good skin care and glucose control. The below steps can be implemented into a diabetic skin care regimen with the help of a healthcare professional.

  1. Develop and utilize a skin care regimen to cleanse, moisturize, protect and treat the skin. When cleansing, use a pH-balanced cleanser with or without a protectant and avoid soaps and detergents.
  2. Use soft towels and washcloths. When using towels and washcloths, avoid friction and pat dry, rather than rubbing. In fragile or irritated areas such as the perineum, use of disposable wipes with a no-rinse cleanser is recommended to minimize damage due to friction.
  3. Moisturizing is important because, as diabetes causes changes in the skin, there is increased transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and decreased skin and subcutaneous thickness. Additionally, the skin becomes more fragile due to the shrinking of collagen and elastin fibers, a decrease in epidermal-dermal cohesion and decreased sweat gland activity.
  4. Advanced protection with a cream or moisturizer containing dimethicone is recommended for diabetic skin, as it is lighter than petrolatum based products and helps prevent TEWL.
  5. Treating fungal infections with an antifungal powder is recommended for skin folds, the perineal area and feet, as it can also help to absorb excess moisture. 


(*)  Americal Diabetes Association. Living with Diabetes. November 5, 2015. Retrieved from

Source: Diabetic Skin Conditions and How THERA Can Help, Laura Dahl Popkes, RN, CWON

Be advised that the information contained herein is intended to serve as a useful reference for informational purposes only and is not complete clinical information. This information is intended for use by competent healthcare professionals exercising judgment in providing care. McKesson Medical-Surgical cannot be held responsible for the continued currency of or for any errors or omissions in the information. If any condition noted in these informational guidelines persists or worsens, reassess the condition and determine whether further or different treatment is required.

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