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Diabetes and high-performance sports: How to take care of my skin?

Diabetes and high-performance sports: How to take care of my skin?

Diabetes is a health condition that affects millions of people worldwide, and those who suffer from it often face additional challenges when engaging in high-performance sports.

In the United States alone, over 37 million people have diabetes, while 96 million adults have prediabetes, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These figures underscore the scale and impact of this disease.

While managing blood sugar levels and nutrition are crucial aspects, one often overlooked factor is skincare. The skin is the body's largest organ and can be affected in various ways by diabetes, especially during intense physical activity.


High-performance athletes with diabetes

The impact of diabetes on high-performance athletes

Diabetes can have a significant impact on high-performance athletes, as managing this condition poses particular challenges in the context of intense physical activity.

One of the most notable impacts is related to the regulation of blood glucose levels. Diabetic athletes typically face the need to adjust insulin doses and manage carbohydrate intake properly to maintain blood glucose at safe levels during exercise. The lack of control can lead to episodes of hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, affecting athletic performance and the overall health of the athlete.

Furthermore, diabetes can influence the body's response to exercise in terms of body temperature and sweating. Imbalances in these aspects can increase the vulnerability of the skin to infections, a common issue for athletes whose skin undergoes constant stress due to rigorous training.

Additionally, diabetes may have long-term implications, as athletes with this condition could face an increased risk of complications such as kidney diseases or eye problems.

Although facing diabetes presents challenges, several high-performance athletes have demonstrated that overcoming these limitations is feasible, excelling in their respective disciplines. Currently, specific communities and groups of diabetic athletes, such as Team Novo Nordisk, have formed, sharing their passion for sports, experiences, and mutual support.

The key to this success lies in the careful management of the condition. This involves meticulous planning to control glucose levels during physical activity, as well as a comprehensive approach that encompasses important aspects such as nutrition, hydration, and skincare.

By adopting a comprehensive approach, diabetic athletes can confront and overcome the specific challenges that diabetes may pose in the realm of sports

The impact of diabetes on high-performance athletes

What are the most common skin issues in diabetic athletes?

High-performance and non professional athletes with diabetes may encounter various skin issues due to the unique challenges posed by managing this condition in combination with intense physical activity.

Some of the most common skin problems in these athletes are:


  • Skin infections
    Diabetes can compromise the immune system, making diabetic athletes more susceptible to skin infections, caused by fungi or bacteria. Moisture and friction during exercise can further increase this risk by creating small skin abrasions.

  • Skin dryness
    They often experience dryness in the skin, and intense physical activity can exacerbate this issue. Dry skin is more prone to cracking, which can lead to infections if not managed properly

  • Sores and blisters
    Constant rubbing of the skin due to repetitive motion during exercise can lead to the formation of sores and blisters. In individuals with diabetes, healing may be slower, increasing the risk of infection.

  • Loss of sensation
    Diabetic neuropathy, which affects the nerves, can cause a loss of sensitivity in the feet and other areas, meaning athletes may not feel minor injuries or blisters, allowing them to worsen before being noticed

  • Circulatory Issues
    Uncontrolled diabetes can damage your skin vessels, contributing to poor wound healing. Diabetic athletes should pay special attention to any cuts or scratches to prevent complications

  • Increased risk of sunburn
    Some diabetes medications can heighten skin sensitivity to the sun. Athletes engaging in outdoor sports should be aware of this susceptibility and take measures to protect their skin from the sun

What are the most common skin issues in diabetic athletes?

8 skincare strategies for high-performance diabetic athletes


For high-performance diabetic athletes, skincare is essential to maintain optimal health during intense physical activity.

Maintaining blood glucose levels within the recommended range, combined with specific skincare strategies, can prevent skin issues and ensure athletic performance without compromising dermatological health.

Some comprehensive skincare strategies designed to address the particular needs of diabetic athletes include:

  • Regular moisturizing

Regular application of moisturizers designed for diabetic skin is essential to prevent skin dryness. These creams, applied after each workout session and before bedtime, help keep the skin soft, reducing the risk of cracks and infections

  • Dermatological products with urea

Creams containing urea, such as a cream for bumpy skin, are an ally for the skin of diabetic athletes. Urea, by retaining moisture, enhances hydration and smoothens the skin, contributing to the prevention of skin issues

  • Sunscreens

The use of sunscreens specially formulated for sensitive skin is crucial during outdoor activities. This prevents sunburns and safeguards against increased skin sensitivity due to certain diabetes medications. It's important to include a balm to shield lips with SPF

  • Choosing appropriate clothing

Opting for sportswear that minimizes friction and allows good ventilation is crucial. Soft and breathable fabrics reduce the likelihood of sores and blisters, providing comfort during exercise. 

Additionally, it is advisable to use a body block to fight friction in areas prone to friction, such as thighs or armpits, to minimize irritation during exercise, contributing to the prevention of skin issues

  • Appropriate footwear

Choosing comfortable and suitable athletic shoes for physical activity is essential to prevent calluses, blisters, and foot injuries. Avoiding seams and ensuring a proper fit is key to preventing calluses which in people living with diabetes can lead to diabetic foot.

  • Proper body wash

Selecting an after workout body wash for acne is essential. These types of products cleanse the skin without drying it out, which is particularly important for those prone to acne due to sweating

  • Foot care

Regular application of a cream for rough feet contributes to keeping the skin soft and preventing the formation of calluses, cracks, and blisters, ensuring foot health and preventing diabetic foot.

  • Regular skin inspection

Conducting regular skin inspections is crucial to identify any changes or early injuries, especially in areas of reduced sensitivity. Early detection facilitates timely management of skin issues.

8 skincare strategies for high-performance diabetic athletes

The daily skincare routine should be tailored to the specific needs of athletes with diabetes. This involves adjusting the frequency and type of cleansing, as well as choosing suitable dermatological products.

Doctors, as well as specialized dermatologists, can provide specific recommendations to ensure that athletes' skin remains healthy, resilient, and prepared for continuous physical stress.