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Diseases & Conditions

Skin Care for People with Diabetes

If you have diabetes, there are some steps you can take to help prevent skin problems. Consider the following tips for good skin care:

Keep your diabetes under control. Follow your health care provider’s advice regarding nutrition, exercise, and medication. Keep your blood glucose level within the range recommended by your health care provider.

Keep your skin clean and dry. When bathing or showering, use warm water and a mild, moisture-containing soap. After washing, make sure to rinse and dry yourself well. (Pat your skin dry; do not rub.) Check places where water can collect, such as under the arms, under the breasts, between the legs, and between the toes.

Look at your body after you wash. Make sure you don’t have any dry, red, or sore spots that could become infected.

Avoid bathing in hot water and taking long baths or showers. Also avoid bubble baths, which often contain detergents that can be drying. Avoid scratching dry skin. Apply moisturizer instead.

Keep your skin moist by using a lotion or cream after you wash. Ask your health care provider to suggest a good lotion. Keep a bottle of lotion near the sink so you can use it after washing your hands.

Apply lip balm to prevent chapped lips.

Limit the products you use on your skin to decrease your chances of having a reaction.

If you are prone to acne, talk to your dermatologist before selecting a facial moisturizer. Some moisturizers tend to cause acne or make it worse. Use products labeled non-comedogenic or non-acnegenic.

Treat cuts right away. Wash them with soap and water. Avoid antiseptics, iodine, or alcohol to clean cuts, because they are too harsh. Ask your health care provider to recommend an antibiotic cream or ointment to use on minor cuts.

Drink lots of fluids, especially water, to keep your skin moist and healthy.

To prevent dry skin when the temperature drops, use a room humidifier to add moisture to heated, indoor air.

To protect your skin from the sun, use sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher on your nose, and wear a hat. Also, wear warm gloves and shoes or boots.

Use mild soaps and shampoos.

Wear all-cotton underwear. Cotton allows air to move around your body.

Tell your health care provider about any skin problems you discover.

When should I contact my health care provider?

Contact your health care provider if you experience any of the following problems:

  • A major cut, burn, or infection
  • A skin change or problem that doesn’t go away
  • A rash that develops after taking medication
  • A rash that develops near your insulin injection site

Caring for minor skin and foot problems

How to prepare a first-aid kit

Keep a first-aid kit handy to take care of your hands and feet. It should contain:

  • Antibacterial ointment
  • Gauze pads
  • Hypoallergenic tape or paper tape
  • Prepackaged cleansing towelettes (in case soap and water are not available)
How to take care of blisters
  • Don't try to break or "pop" the blister. The skin that covers the blister helps protect it from infection.
  • Gently wash the area with a mild soap and warm water.
  • Apply antibacterial ointment to the blister.
  • Cover the blister with a hypoallergenic or cloth bandage, or a gauze pad secured in place with hypoallergenic or paper tape.
  • Change the bandage at least once a day.
  • Wear a different pair of shoes until the blister heals.
How to take care of small cuts
  • Gently wash the area with mild soap and warm water.
  • Apply antibacterial ointment.
  • Cover the cut with a hypoallergenic or cloth bandage, or gauze pad secured in place with hypoallergenic or paper tape.
  • Change the bandage at least once a day.
How to take care of minor skin irritations
  • Gently wash the area with a mild soap and warm water.
  • Cover the irritated skin with a hypoallergenic or cloth bandage, or gauze pad secured in place with hypoallergenic or paper tape.
  • Keep checking the area to make sure the irritation doesn't get worse.
  • Change the bandage at least once a day.
How to take care of minor burns
  • Don't try to break or "pop" blisters that may have formed.
  • Gently wash the area with mild soap and warm water.
  • Cover the burn with a gauze pad and secure it in place with hypoallergenic or paper tape.
  • Change the bandage at least once a day.
How to take care of frostbite
  • Use warm water to warm the skin (98° F to 104° F).
  • Call for medical help immediately.
  • Don't rub the affected area or apply creams.
  • Don't try to walk on the affected foot or use the affected hand.
When to call a podiatrist (foot doctor) or other health care provider
  • If you do not see an improvement the day after treating a minor problem, such as a cut.
  • If you have pain or discomfort that continues for more than two days.
  • If you have a foot ulcer and develop a fever.
  • If you notice any pus developing on or near the sore.

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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 10/24/2007...#9491