Taking Good Care Of Your Skin
Living with diabetes means being more susceptible to dry skin. One reason is that high blood glucose causes more frequent urination, leading to dehydration. Given that hyperglycemia affects nerves and capillaries, you may also observe a decrease in sweating.
The problem is that dry skin gets injured or cracked more easily, making it more vulnerable to infections that can create serious complications. Besides, if you’re falling prey to neuropathy, you may not notice the problem early enough.
Dry skin and poor blood circulation can create itching sensations—in the legs, among other areas.
Various types of rashes, blisters, bacterial infections—accompanied by symptoms such as redness, swelling and pain—or fungal infections may also occur.
A bacterial infection affecting a hair follicle can result in folliculitis or a boil. Your eyelids or the area around your nails can also get infected. The most common culprit for those infections is the staphylococcus bacteria, and antibiotics are often required to fight it off.
Humid areas of your body—between your fingers or toes, at the corners of your mouth, on your underarms or around your groin—are subject to fungal infections such as eczema, athlete’s foot or yeast vaginitis, among others.
As for less common complications… Capillary damage can lead the skin, particularly on your legs, to become covered with pale brown spots which are often confused with normal signs of aging. This is a harmless condition known as diabetic dermopathy. People living with diabetes also sometimes develop scleroderma, a thickening and hardening of the skin.
If you experience any similar symptoms or discover you have an injury or an infection, consult a health care professional as soon as possible.
Prevention is king!
Often, the only way to treat these problems is to manage your blood glucose properly, which means it’s also the best way to avoid them.
Drink water regularly to stay hydrated, and exercise! Physical activity doesn’t just make you feel good through endorphins; it also stimulates blood circulation and helps maintain glucose levels within target values .
And since the skin of your feet and legs is particularly at risk, examine it every day.
Softness is the watchword
- Avoid long showers or baths, and beware water that’s too hot, as it tends to dry out your skin.
- Use a mild soap, and make sure you rinse well! Soap residue causes dry skin.
- After showering or bathing, apply moisturizing cream or lotion to your face and body—preferably a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, non-comedogenic product.
- Wear clothing and underwear made from natural fabrics such as cotton. Synthetic fibres don’t let your skin breathe as well.
- Avoid sun exposure without adequate protection.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours or so, and when you go swimming, use a water-resistant variety.
Keep in mind that you shouldn’t let your guard down just because it’s not a sunny day. UV rays can pass through clouds and even fog.
…and in winter
- Cover your hands and face well.
- Don’t overlook the need for sunscreen. Sure, it’s cold outside, but the sun is still there!
- Build yourself an arsenal of moisturizing creams and lotions, lip balm and the like. Keep them in your purse or coat pockets.
A note on indoor conditions: the ideal humidity level is between 35% and 45%. Use a hygrometer to check the humidity level in your home, and if the air is too dry, you might want to use a humidifier.
Your skin is your largest organ. Make sure you take good care of it!
Allison Tsai, “Winter Skin Guide”, Diabetes Forecast. The Healthy Living Magazine, American Diabetes Association, September 2016: http://www.diabetesforecast.org/2016/sep-oct/winter-skin-guide.html?loc=morefrom?referrer=http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/skin-complications.html. Accessed March 7, 2017.
American Diabetes Association, “Skin Complications”: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/skin-complications.html. Accessed March 7, 2017.
Brenda Conaway, “Diabetes-Related Skin Conditions”, WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/features/diabetes-related-skin-conditions. Accessed March 7, 2017.
Diabetes Canada, “5 Fixes for Dry Winter Skin”: https://www.diabetes.ca/publications-newsletters/diabetes-current-newsletter/diabetes-current-archive/diabetes-current-december-2013/healthy-living/5-fixes-for-dry-winter-skin. Accessed March 7, 2017.
Diabetes Québec, “How to have a Healthy Skin”: http://www.diabete.qc.ca/en/living-with-diabetes/care-and-treatment/body-care/pour-une-peau-saine. Accessed March 7, 2017.
WebMD, “Skin Problems in Diabetes”: http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/skin-problems#1. Accessed March 7, 2017.
Yves Perrier, “Contrôler l’humidité de votre maison”, La Presse, October 28, 2008 (updated February 18, 2009): http://www.lapresse.ca/maison/immobilier/conseils/200810/26/01-872797-controler-lhumidite-dans-votre-maison.php. Accessed March 7, 2017.