Diabetes Related Skin Conditions: Fungal Infections, Prevention and Treatment
Anyone can develop a fungal skin infection, but people with diabetes are more prone to them.
A common cause of fungal infections in those with diabetes is the yeast-like fungus Candida albicans that thrives in moist and warm folds of skin. The best preventative measures are good skin care and blood sugar management.
Although OTC medications usually suffice for fungal infections, consult your diabetes care team about any suspicious rash to learn your best treatment options.
Common Fungal Infections
Jock itch, or tinea cruris, is a red, itchy, often ring-shaped rash affecting the skin of our thighs, buttocks, or genitals. The rash typically spreads out from a groin skin-fold into a half moon pattern on the thigh, sometimes bordered by a row of small blisters.
Preventive measures for jock itch are:
- dry your groin area thoroughly after exercising or showering.
- powder the groin area to prevent excess moisture.
- if you sweat a lot, change your underwear often.
- wear light weight clothing in warm, humid weather.
- wash your workout clothing after every use.
- always use clean towels to dry off.
- make sure your workout clothes and athletic equipment fit well so they do not chafe your skin (boxer shorts are kinder to the skin than briefs).
- never share personal items, towels, or clothing.
- treat athlete’s foot immediately since it can spread to the groin.
To treat jock itch your doctor will likely recommend an OTC antifungal spray, lotion, ointment, or powder. Even if the rash fades quickly, these treatments should be applied two times per day for at least ten days. If the rash persists, there are stronger medications, including pills, your physician can prescribe.
Athlete’s foot, or tinea pedis, typically starts between the toes of people whose feet become sweaty in snug shoes. It is also spread by contaminated clothing, towels, or floors. The infection appears as a scaly rash that stings, burns, and itches. Certain types of athlete’s foot cause blisters, ulcers, or dryness and scaling on the soles and sides of the feet.
Preventive actions for athlete’s foot are:
- keep your feet, including the slots between your toes, dry.
- go barefoot around the house when possible.
- avoid shoes made of vinyl, rubber, or other synthetic material.
- change your socks often if you sweat a lot.
- avoid wearing the same shoes day after day—give each pair a chance to dry between outings.
- wear shower shoes or waterproof sandals in public pools or shared showers.
- sprinkle antifungal or regular powder on your feet every day.
- do not borrow or lend shoes.
To treat athlete’s foot your physician will likely recommend an OTC antifungal spray, lotion, ointment, or powder. If the rash persists, there are stronger topical medications, or pills, your doctor can prescribe.
Ringworm of the body, or tinea corporis, is a red circular rash that forms on the top layer of skin. No worms are involved—the infection’s name is only descriptive of its appearance. Ringworm may or may not be itchy.
Protective measures against ringworm are:
- be aware that ringworm is contagious and can be transferred from infected people or pets (an infected pet might have a patch of fur missing).
- wash your hands often, especially when in public areas.
- avoid excess sweating—wear lightweight clothing in humid, hot weather.
- do not share personal grooming items, towels, or clothing.
Ringworm on the body usually responds to topical OTC antifungal products. Your doctor may prescribe antifungal pills for severe infections.
Ringworm of the scalp is more common among toddlers and school-age children. It usually appears as scaly and itchy bald patches. A doctor will likely prescribe medicated shampoo and an oral antifungal medication. Preventive measures are the same as for body ringworm plus regular shampooing—especially after a haircut.
Vaginal candidiasis, or a vaginal yeast infection, affects the tissues of the vulva and vagina. Symptoms are itching, irritation, and discharge. Though it can be transmitted via oral-genital contact, it is not categorized as a sexually transmitted disease.
Precautions for vaginal infections are:
- wear cotton undies and loose-fitting skirts or pants.
- avoid douching, tight underwear, and pantyhose.
- avoid extremely hot baths, and hot tubs.
- change out of swimsuits or workout clothing ASAP.
For mild vaginal infections your doctor may recommend a short-course (one to three days) of OTC or prescription ointment, cream, suppository, or tablets, or a one-time oral dose of the antifungal drug Diflucan. Persistent infections will require a longer course of vaginal medications (one to two weeks), or multiple doses of Diflucan. Recurring infections may necessitate an ongoing treatment regimen.
Source: Mayo Clinic, ADA
Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema - flickr