It’s no big news that diabetes is at epidemic levels in America these days, and due to unique factors  experienced by people in the LGBT community, the risk is of developing diabetes and its associated complications is even higher. For example, LGBT diabetes patients are more likely than heterosexuals to smoke cigarettes, use drugs and alcohol, and battle with weight and obesity issues. And recent studies show that lesbians are more likely to indulge in heavy drinking than heterosexual women and LGB Latino adults. The risk of type 2 diabetes is also high among overweight transgender women who are on hormone therapy, since hormone therapy can send blood sugar levels through the roof.

Managing your diet, getting regular exercise, being consistent with your insulin shots or oral medications, and checking your blood sugar are all things that doctors continually drill into their patients. But many diabetics don’t realize that their skin may be affected as well.

In fact, as many as one-third of people with diabetes will have a skin disorder caused or affected by diabetes at some time in their lives. There are a wide variety of potential issues diabetics may have with their skin. For example, high glucose levels can lead to dry skin, which can often lead to other skin disorders.

Diabetics are also prone to fungal infections or bacterial infections because of weakened immune systems, weakened blood flow, and difficulty healing from wounds. Other skin issues may include itching, difficulty with healing wounds, yellow skin, rashes, diabetic blisters, skin tags, rosacea, and diabetic dermopathy.

However, a few basic preventative measures can help stop many skin conditions linked to diabetes before they even occur. Diabetics should bathe wild mild soap and warm to lukewarm water daily, avoiding very hot showers and bubble baths because they may cause dry skin. A humid home during cold months will also prevent dry skin, as will the use of lotion and moisturizer.

Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, will nourish and strengthen skin. Drink lots of fluids to maintain skin’s hydration. In addition, check your skin regularly for any bumps, redness, or abnormalities, and keep your blood pressure and glucose levels under control.

If you do develop skin issues, it helps to keep a first aid kit for skin in your home so that you can address any issues as soon as they come up.

This kit should include:

• Antibacterial ointment
• Clean petroleum jelly or ointment
• Gauze pads and non stick pads
• Hypoallergenic or paper tape
• Prepackaged cleansing fragrance-free towelettes
• Self-adherent elastic wrap from Coban

Diabetics also encounter many foot problems, such as blisters, cracked feet, infections, and skin conditions caused by a lack of circulation or diabetic nerve damage. To prevent these, use shoe inserts and check your feet regularly for any issues. Rub calluses and corns in one direction for relief.

With these preventative measures, diabetics can decrease their chances of developing skin and foot problems while keeping themselves healthy. If problems persist, it is recommended to see a dermatologist.

Diabetes has become a part of our every day lives, especially in the LGBTQ community, but with simple lifestyle changes and basic healthcare, we can prevent it from becoming a scary or unmanageable disease.

See the handy infographic below, courtesy of  skinfo®


photo credit: “Jus’ chillin'” by Just Ard via Flickr, cc