Keeping your skin healthy is important, especially if you have diabetes. Read on for skin care tips and potential risks that all people with diabetes should be aware of.
As your body’s largest organ, your skin is a master multitasker. It retains fluids to help prevent dehydration, regulates body temperature, and perhaps the most important task, it protects the body from infection.
Diabetes and Skin Problems
People with diabetes are more likely to develop skin problems. In fact, one out of three people with the disease will eventually have a skin disorder.
So why do diabetes and dry skin seem to go hand in hand? One of the main reasons is a condition called Autonomic Neuropathy that damages the nerves controlling your body systems. Hindering your body’s ability to secrete sweat is one issue that can result from this damage. High blood sugar levels can also lower the amount of fluid in your body. The result: dry, cracked skin. Not only is it itchy, but skin in such a state allows germs to easily invade the body.
Infections on your feet are of particular concern. Peripheral neuropathy, another type of nerve damage from diabetes, can limit how well you feel pain from blisters, corns, or calluses. So, too, can poor blood flow caused by diabetes. You may not realize you have a wound until it is infected. Infections in your feet can be slow to heal, and in worst cases, can lead to amputation.
Besides infections, people with diabetes are more prone to certain skin disorders. These include itching, skin tags, thickening of the skin on the back of the hands, toes or forehead, and diabetic dermopathy—scaly brown patches caused by small blood vessel changes. People with diabetes can also experience allergic skin reactions to medications, such as insulin or oral products.
Skin Care Tips
Keeping your blood sugar levels under control can prevent many diabetic skin problems, including infections. Practicing good skin care helps, too. Follow these skin care tips:
- Wash with mild soap and dry your skin well. Pay special attention to hard-to-dry areas, such as between your toes and under your arms.
- Apply moisturizer after bathing to curtail drying and cracking. But don’t rub lotion between your toes, where fungus can easily grow.
- Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water and other fluids.
- Every day check your body, especially your feet, for cuts, sores, or other skin problems.
- Don’t let minor wounds fester. Use soap and water to clean them; cover them with a bandage. For major wounds, see a doctor right away.
- Keep your feet covered-indoors and out. Wearing shoes and socks can help prevent wounds. Avoid going barefoot or wearing flip-flops.
- Lather on sunscreen before you go outside. Too much unprotected sun-time can damage your skin. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Apply it evenly and frequently.
“Skin Complications,” American Diabetes Association. Edited March 31, 2014. www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/skin-complications.html
“National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.” February 2014. diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/complications_feet/#hurtskin.