Diabetic Skin Troubles

By Burgo, Kate 
March 21, 2017

Diabetic Skin Troubles

We often take our skin for granted, but if you’ve ever had an itchy rash or a boil, you know how painful even a small skin problem can be. About one-third of people with diabetes develop a skin problem sooner or later. Fortunately, most problems can be prevented or easily treated. Here are 3 common problems and how to prevent them.

Dry, itchy skin

When blood glucose is high, your body loses fluid. Diabetic nerve damage can also decrease sweating. Both can lead to dry skin.

To prevent dry skin, manage your blood sugar and drink plenty of fluids. When bathing, avoid very hot water and use mild soap. Then, dry well and apply moisturizer, but not between the toes or in skin folds since excess moisture in these areas can lead to fungal infections. Try using a humidifier in your home during cold, dry weather.


People with diabetes also have a tendency to develop calluses over pressure points on their toes. These calluses can also develop into ulcers. Calluses can usually be safely rubbed down with a pumice stone and can be largely avoided by wearing custom-designed diabetic shoes and inserts. 

Fungal infection

Vaginal yeast infections, athlete’s foot, jock itch, and ringworm show up as itchy, red rashes, sometimes with tiny blisters. Oftentimes, fungal infections can be caused by Candida albicans, a fungus that takes hold in warm, moist folds of skin.

To prevent fungal infections, keep your skin clean, and dry well after bathing. If you get a fungal infection, tell your healthcare provider. You may need prescription medicine.

Bacterial infection

Sores that are red, swollen, and painful may be due to bacterial infections. Styes (an infected eyelid gland), boils, and folliculitis (an infected hair follicle) are common. A carbuncle is a deeper skin infection. Styes, boils, and carbuncles are commonly caused by Staphylococcus (“staph”) bacteria.

To prevent bacterial infections, take care of dry skin and avoid scratching it. Scratching can crack the skin, allowing an infection to start. Inspect your feet every day, and clean and bandage sores and cuts. Keep blood sugar controlled so that you can better prevent a bacterial infection. Check your skin daily. If a problem doesn’t go away, or you think you have an infection, see your healthcare provider right away.


March 21, 2017

Reviewed By:  

Hurd, Robert, MD,Sather, Rita, RN