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June 2013

Good Skin Care Essential if You Have Diabetes

As your body's largest organ, your skin is a master multitasker. It keeps fluids in, preventing dehydration. It regulates body temperature. It senses external stimuli, such as pain. It produces vitamin D from sunlight. And perhaps its most important task: It protects the body from infection. No doubt, keeping your skin healthy is important, especially if you have diabetes.

Photo of couple walking on the beach, holding a parasol

Skin problems and diabetes

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.

Why do skin problems touch more people with diabetes? When you have diabetes, your skin may not perform up to par. Diabetic nerve damage-a loss of feeling-can hinder your body's ability to secrete sweat. 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 more easily invade the body.

Infections on your feet are of particular concern. Nerve damage can limit how well you notice 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 yellowing nails, skin tags, thickening of the skin, and diabetic dermopathy-scaly patches of brown skin caused by small blood vessel changes. People with diabetes can also experience allergic skin reactions to medications, such as insulin.

Skin-saving tips

Keeping your blood sugar levels under control can prevent many skin problems, including infections. Practicing good skin care helps, too. Below are some skin-saving tips:

  • Keep your skin clean. 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.

  • Check your skin-especially your feet-every day for any 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. Choose shoes that fit well.

  • Lather on sunscreen before you go outside. Too much unprotected sun-time can damage your skin. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or 45. Apply it evenly and frequently.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information. 

If warmer weather tempts you to wear flip flops or no shoes at all, it's best to refrain. Click here to learn more about protecting your feet during the summer.

 

Online Resources

American Diabetes Association - Skin Complications

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse - Prevent Diabetes Problems: Keep Your Feet and Skin Healthy

 

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