Diabetes and Dry Skin
Dry skin a condition of the skin that isn’t painful and is harmless, but is diabetes to blame? Having dry skin can signal that your blood sugar levels are high and can mean several things. It’s recognized by itching, scaling, and cracking of the skin. Some people just have naturally dry skin, but dry skin can develop from oily skin. Dry skin can happen on any part of your body.
It could be an indicator that you are pre-diabetic, you have diabetes and haven’t been diagnosed with it by your doctor, or the treatment that you are currently on needs to be modified. Either way an appointment with your doctor may be necessary. If you haven’t been tested for diabetes then you most certainly want to have this done so that you at least know and can start doing something about it.
Causes of Skin Problems Related to Diabetes
Having type 2 diabetes for an extended period of time can do damage to your body and decrease the blood circulation to your skin. The changing of your skin and it’s appearance, texture and its ability to heal are results of damage to your nerves and your blood vessels from poor blood circulation which alters your skin’s collagen. This becomes obvious and noticeable. Remember, your skin is your largest organ and the only one you or anyone can actually see.
Since approximately 33% of people with diabetes can experience some sort of skin condition related to diabetes. There are also some diabetes medications for lowering your blood sugar that can actually raise your chances of developing some kind of skin issues based on diabetes. So here are some of the skin conditions caused by diabetes:
* Fungal infections- These are very common for diabetics and caused by the spread of yeast or fungus. They will appear as areas of swollen, and itchy and red skin that are encircled by dry scales or blistering. Fungus flourishes where you skin folds and contains warmth such as under the armpits, in the groin area and under the breasts. Fungal infections such as jock itch and athlete’s foot can be extremely itchy and can spread and get much worse. It’s crucial to get prescription medication to treat before it does worsen. Don’t wait!
* Diabetic blisters- Some folks with type 2 diabetes having nerve damage can experience blisters that may resemble burns. These are generally rare and aren’t painful but will heal in a couple of weeks or so. These types of blisters happen only if your blood sugar levels are not under control, so do your best to make sure those numbers are controlled.
* Bacterial infections- Most people are familiar with and experience bacterial infections. But for diabetics it is much more of an issue because these conditions are redness and swelling accompanied by a warm touch being painful and happens more often if your blood sugar levels are consistently high. Antibiotics can help so keep your doctor informed.
* Shin spots- These round scaly patches of skin of a light brown color often appear on the shins. The patches result in the small blood vessels that supply the tissues with oxygen and nutrition becoming damaged. This issue will not require any treatment because it is harmless. If you’ve got your blood sugar under control it still may not go away.
* Digital sclerosis- This particular skin condition will cause the skin on your toes, fingers, and hands to become tight and thick and possibly stiffen your joints. You have a much higher chance of developing this skin condition if your glucose is too high. The best defense against this is to have your blood sugar numbers under control. There are also some moisturizers and lotions available that can help in treating or preventing this condition.
* Skin coloration- Discoloration of the skin is known as vitiligo. It is a condition where the skin cells that make the pigment are damaged and destroyed. There is no particular treatment for this condition so the best thing you can do to try and prevent it is to use sunscreen. Protection from the sun is always advisable when it comes to your skin.
* Prescription medications- You want to stay on top of this with your physician and/or your dermatologist. Certain skin conditions can be serious enough to require prescription medications. These can include antifungal medications, antibiotics either oral or topical to treat skin issues and even insulin therapy which can help to control the origin of a specific skin condition. Your healthcare individual will guide you as which course to take.
* Over the counter meds- There are some over the counter treatments for type 2 diabetics with skin disorders. You can use non-prescription antifungals, topical steroid meds and hydrocortisone. You can have the pharmacist assist you. They are very experienced and knowledgeable in this area.
* Home or other remedies- Sometimes you either don’t need or don’t want prescription medications and there are some great choices for type 2 diabetes conditions. One thing that you can use is talcum powder but I prefer Gold Bond powder because it works very well. Powder is good because it is great for where skin touches skin, such as behind the knees, the groin area, armpit, and under the breast. Lotion can reduce the itching and help to soothe dry skin.
* Altering your lifestyle- Now some things you can’t change in life that you are just born with. But for the most part you can make many changes in your lifestyle that can make a huge difference. Eating healthy and exercising are always at the top of the list and have a tremendous impact on your diabetes and in turn your dry skin as well.
So it’s important to prevent dry skin first rather than have to treat it. Everyone is different so you may choose to do one task and not another. You want to avoid scratching dry skin because that can lead to more problems with infections. A hot shower or hot bath can dry your skin out. If you can, try and adjust your home to where it’s more on the humid side in the dryer months.
Keeping Your Skin Healthy When You Have Diabetes
These are all important things to do to prevent skin problems when you’re a type 2 diabetic:
* Blood sugar numbers- This is the most important part of not only having healthy skin with diabetes but for your overall health as well. If your blood glucose is out of control, then you will not only have other health issues but there’s more of a likelihood that you will suffer from dry skin as well. Test yourself regularly!
* Diabetic nerve damage- If you have nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy) which is a result of elevated glucose numbers, then it’s especially important to be on the lookout for dry skin. If you have diabetic nerve damage and aren’t aware of it, you could have dry skin that gets cracked and this raises the possibilities of infection.
With nerve damage from diabetes and dry skin, you should be checking your lower body every day to be absolutely sure that you don’t have any tears or cracks in your skin that you weren’t aware of because of numbness due to neuropathy. I have numbness in my feet and I check every day without fail!
* Keeping the skin covered- As a diabetic with a dry skin condition it’s a necessity to try and cover those spots and areas so that the skin doesn’t have the chance to just tear off. Dress accordingly with socks, long pants, and shoes that fit properly whenever you are outside the house because that’s where there’s more of a chance of a tear in your skin or cut to open up. Keep your skin covered as best you can.
* No scratching- I remember my mom always telling me not to scratch that! Sound familiar? Well she was obviously right because Moms are always right! So you don’t want to open up the dry skin and allow infections to take over. You can use moisturizer anywhere to help even the driest parts of your skin such as the legs, arms, feet, and hands.
* Your feet- It is crucial to check your feet each and everyday. You want to make sure that you don’t have any cuts and sores because with diabetes, neuropathy can cause a loss of feeling in your feet and you might incur an injury and not even be aware of it.
So be as thorough as possible when examining your feet and don’t rush. Keep tabs with your doctor especially with any changes as far as calluses, ulcers, cracked skin, dry skin, or blisters. It’s a good idea to see a podiatrist regularly as well.
* Hydration- Using moisturizer is very beneficial but it’s even more important that you are constantly hydrated. This can help to avoid any skin problems related to diabetes. I found that a good idea was to get a good water bottle and have it with me so that I always have water on hand wherever I go.
* Cold weather- It’s common for folks with and without diabetes to experience dry skin when cold weather arrives. It’s a good idea to invest in a room humidifier for the cold winter months to keep the proper amount of moisture in the room. This will help to keep your skin from drying out.
* Hand sanitizer- I use hand sanitizer all the time. The problem is that it dries your hands out big time especially in the winter. It’s important to use moisturizer to keep your hands hydrated and smooth.
* Testing your sugar- If you want to try and avoid calluses when you test your blood glucose, then you may want to avoid testing in the same finger constantly and to also use the side of your finger instead of the center. The side is less sensitive too when you go to stick it. So switch up all the time with where you test. Make sure you are using a new lancet that is sharp and isn’t dull when you test because that can increase your risk of callused fingers as well.
* Too much sun- Excess sun exposure is bad enough for possible skin cancer problems, but the sun can dry your skin out and especially with having type 2 diabetes. You want to protect yourself with sunglasses and sun block and a hat. I always wear a hat when it’s necessary especially if you are losing your hair.
* Hot water- Okay, I don’t mean that YOU are in hot water! LOL But you could be if you are constantly exposing yourself to hot water. Warm showers and baths are required here to avoid drying your skin out. Also don’t forget to use only mild shampoos.
As I said in the beginning, your skin is your largest organ of your body and the only one exposed to the outside and the elements. It’s hard enough to keep it healthy and without incident but even harder when you have type 2 diabetes. Having high blood sugar numbers only contribute more to a problem of diabetes and dry skin.
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