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Daily skincare routine for people with diabetes

Skin problems are common in people with diabetes. High levels of sugar in the blood provide an excellent breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, and can reduce the body's ability to heal itself.

Why can diabetes lead to skin problems?

If you have diabetes and your blood sugar is high, the body loses fluid, causing your skin to become dry. This occurs because the body is turning the water into urine to remove the excess sugar from the blood. Your skin can also get dry if the nerves, especially those in your legs and feet, do not get the message to sweat (because of diabetic neuropathy). Sweating helps keep your skin soft and moist.

In addition, dry skin can become red and sore, and can crack and peel. Germs can enter through the cracks in your skin and cause an infection. Dry skin usually is itchy, and scratching can lead to breaks in the skin and infection.

As many as one-third of people with diabetes will have a skin condition related to their diabetes at some time in their lives. Fortunately, most skin conditions can be prevented and successfully treated if caught early. But if not cared for properly, a minor skin condition can turn into a serious problem with potentially severe consequences.

Tips to help you care for your skin if you have diabetes:

  • Protect skin from the elements. To protect your skin from the sun, use sun creams with at least SPF15 or higher.
  • To protect your skin from the cold or wind, cover your ears and face, including your nose, and wear a hat. Also wear warm gloves and shoes or boots.
  • Apply lip balm to prevent chapped lips.
  • To prevent dry skin when the temperature drops, consider using a room humidifier to add moisture to heated, indoor air.
  • When bathing or showering, use warm (not hot) water and a mild, moisture-containing soap.
  • Avoid bathing in hot water.
  • Avoid taking long baths or showers.
  • Pat your skin dry; do not rub.
  • After washing and drying your skin, apply a mild lotion to prevent dry skin.
  • Avoid scratching dry skin. Apply moisturiser instead.
  • Keep a bottle of lotion near the basin so you can use it after washing your hands.
  • Limit products you use on your skin to decrease your chances of having a reaction.
  • If you are prone to acne, talk to your doctor before selecting a facial moisturiser. Some moisturisers tend to make acne worse. Use products labelled non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic.
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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 24, 2017

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