Diabetes Related Skin Conditions: Bacterial Infections, Prevention and Treatment

Anyone can develop a bacterial skin infection, but people with diabetes are more prone to them. A skin condition can even be the first indication that an individual has diabetes.

Good skin care, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and controlled blood sugar are the primary preventive measures for skin infections. However, even the most hygienic and scrupulous among us might contract one.

Common Bacterial Infections

Styes are painful red lumps, often pus-filled, along the edge of an eyelid. Other symptoms are tearing, eyelid swelling, and crusting.

Preventive measures for styes are:

    not touching your eye area with unwashed hands.
    always washing your hands thoroughly before changing contact lenses.
    always disinfecting contact lenses before use.
    removing your makeup before going to bed.
    not using old or expired makeup.

Most styes are harmless and resolve on their own, improving within 48 hours. The recommended self-care is to apply a warm moist washcloth to your closed eyelid for at least ten minutes several times each day. For persistent styes, doctors might prescribe an antibiotic (e.g., topical cream, eye drops, pills). Styes occasionally need to be lanced and drained.

Boils, or furuncles, are red, pus-filled, tender lumps that form under the skin when one or several hair follicles are infected by bacteria. A cluster of boils is a more serious infection called a carbuncle.

Preventive factors for boils and carbuncles are:

    wash your hands regularly with a mild soap.
    avoid contact with those who have a boil, or other staph infection.
    prompt treatment and care of other skin problems such as eczema or acne.
    keep cuts and abrasions clean and protected.
    avoid sharing personal items (e.g., towels, razors, sheets, athletic equipment).

Boils often resolve themselves within two weeks of onset. The suggested self care for pain relief and to facilitate drainage is applying warm compresses—never pick or squeeze them. Doctors may choose to lance and drain large or persistent boils/carbuncles, and may prescribe an antibiotic.

Folliculitis is a bacterial (or fungal) infection of hair follicles, and there are several types (e.g., barber’s itch, hot tub rash, razor bumps). This condition appears as clusters of small red bumps or white-tipped pimples. Itching and tenderness are common symptoms.

Preventive actions for folliculitis are:

    avoid friction when shaving (use sharp blades, an electric razor, lubricating cream).
    avoid wearing tight clothing or articles that hold in sweat and body heat such as rubber gloves or boots.
    avoid covering the skin with plastic dressings or adhesive tapes.
    maintain a healthy weight.
    stay out of poorly maintained hot tubs.

A doctor may suggest using an antibiotic cream for folliculitis (or an anti-fungal). Serious deep follicle infections may require minor surgery, light therapy, laser hair removal, or steroid cream. Mild cases respond well to home self care such applying warm compresses moistened with saltwater, OTC antibiotic creams, regular cleansing with antibacterial soap, and using a skin moisturizer after shaving with an electric razor.

Most bacterial infections are easily treated when addressed early, so contact your doctor if you develop inflamed, hot, red, and tender skin tissue.

Source: Mayo Clinic, ADA
Photo credit: O.G. - flickr

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