Diabetes and dry skin can be a challenging combination to manage, but there's a lot you can do to keep your skin healthy.
Winter can be beautiful, but its crisp pleasures often make us work harder than in milder months. It can seem like it takes extra effort to keep everything in working condition: our homes, our cars, and even our bodies. We bundle up, wash our hands more often, and take extra vitamin C. Our skin needs extra care, as well, to prevent the dryness and cracks that can happen so easily in winter conditions.
If you have diabetes and dry skin, keeping your skin healthy during the cold months can be especially challenging. As many as one in three people with diabetes will develop skin problems at some point. Diabetes-related changes in the body can make it harder to stay hydrated, and high blood sugar weakens our defenses against skin infections.
For these reasons, it's important to make an extra effort to protect your skin during the winter. It's also easy when you establish the right habits and skin care routine.
Take Care of the Skin You're In
To keep your skin healthy, build these steps into your routine:
- Manage your blood sugar. When your blood sugar is high, your body takes steps to get rid of the excess through your urine. This process depletes the water in your body, which can leave you—and your skin—dehydrated.
- Block bacteria entry points. Any opening in your skin creates a way for infections to enter your body. Check your skin daily (especially your feet, which are often affected by diabetes) and look for new cracks that need attention.
- Treat cuts right away. If you notice a crack or cut, take care of it right away. Wash with soap and water and cover it with sterile gauze. Ask your doctor if adding an antibiotic cream or ointment would be helpful.
- Wash in warm water. Avoid very hot water when you wash up. Keep your baths and showers lukewarm.
- Lather with care. If your skin is dry, don't use bubble baths. Use moisturizing soaps, mild shampoos, and in-shower lotions, such as Eucerin In-Shower Moisturizer Body Lotion. You should also try to bathe less frequently than usual, with one exception: wash your feet in warm water each day and dry them off well.
- Treat lotion as your new best friend. Apply moisturizing lotion after bathing and any time your skin looks or feels dry. Don't put lotions between your toes, however, as extra moisture in this area can allow fungal infections to grow.
- Go tropical. Keeping your home humid during dry, cold months can go a long way toward keeping your skin moist and healthy.
- Walk softly. Smart shoe choices may help protect your feet. Choose comfortable, flat-heeled shoes that fit well.
- Stop smoking. Smoking damages your circulation, reducing the nourishing flow of blood to your skin tissue. To help improve symptoms of diabetes and dry skin, ask your doctor or Rite Aid Pharmacist about how they can help you stop smoking.
When to See a Doctor
While there's much you can do at home to take care of skin issues, call your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms as they could be signs that you need to adjust your diabetes treatment:
- Scaly patches
- New or extreme itching
- Open wounds or sores
- Changes in the color of your skin, such as new patches of yellow, reddish, or brown coloring
- Skin that feels hot to the touch
- Thickened, tight, or waxy areas
- Discharge that looks like cottage cheese
- Light brown spots or lines on your shins
- Bumpy, pimply, or raised rashes
- Swollen or painful areas
- Rashes, bumps, or depressions, especially at any sites where you inject insulin
Even when you're managing both diabetes and dry skin, most problems can be prevented and treated when caught early.
By Nancy Burtis Boudreau
American Diabetes Association, Skin Complications
WebMD, Skin Problems in Diabetes
American Academy of Dermatology, Diabetes: 12 Warning Signs That Appear on Your Skin
American Diabetes Association, Skin Care
Cleveland Clinic, Foot and Skin Related Complications of Diabetes
Everyday Health, 10 Diabetic Skin Problems