#HEALTH: Diabetes and skin health

THE stakes are high when it comes to diabetes management. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in 2019, 1.5 million lives were claimed by diabetes.

High blood sugar is not just a number, it affects various bodily components, including the skin.

For many, a skin problem serves as an early warning sign of diabetes. The connection between diabetes and skin health goes far beyond the surface. Diabetes brings a heightened vulnerability to skin issues such as dryness, fungal infections, diabetic dermopathy, and delayed wound healing.

Tung Shin Hospital consultant dermatologist Dr Gan Tek Sheng says many individuals living with diabetes are not aware of the vital role that proper skin care plays.

"Proper skin care is integral to managing diabetes effectively and avoiding significant skin conditions, such as infections, open sores and non-healing wounds," he says.

While most patients understand the importance of managing blood sugar, the link between diabetes and skin care often goes unnoticed, adds Dr Gan.


It's important to use a gentle cleanser when bathing or showering and avoid bar soaps as they strip away natural oils and disrupt skin barrier function.

Cleansers that contain perfumes and harsh detergents may also cause irritation and redness.

"Use gentle cleansers to help maintain hydration and prevent skin dryness," says Dr Gan.

Be mindful of water temperature too. When taking a bath or shower, use lukewarm water as hot water strips away natural oils and damages skin. Remember to also dry the skin between your toes, armpits and other skin folds.

Dr Gan says intertrigo occurs more easily in warm moist environments especially in diabetic patients.

It can also make a difference if one applies moisturiser every day. Select a hypoallergenic, fragrance-free cream or ointment and apply after bathing or when skin is dry or itchy. Keeping skin moisturised can prevent cracks that lead to infection.


*Check feet daily for rashes, cuts, sores/changes to skin

*Use a mirror if you cannot see your soles

*Dry feet carefully

*Wear shoes that fit well and socks to avoid injury

* Treat dry, cracked heels

*Keep toenails short and trim them straight across

*Get treatment for corn and calluses

*Treat all wounds immediately


Seek immediate medical care if:

*Skin is swollen and reddish

*There's pain or tenderness

*Honey-coloured crusts

*Changes in the colour and temperature of feet

*Wound that is weeping or leaking pus

*Thickened or discoloured nail

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