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Skin Care and Diabetes: Everything You Need to Know

skin care & diabetes
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Diabetes has the potential to impact not just the body, but every part of a patient’s skin. Hence, knowing about Skin Care & Diabetes is highly recommended. According to the American Diabetes Association, 1/3 of people with diabetes will have a skin disorder caused or affected by diabetes at some time in their lives. While most skin disorders can be prevented with care and medication, it is vital to catch the early signs and treat them immediately. It is a proven fact that most diabetic patients take longer time to heal from injuries and thus, it is advisable for them to follow the “prevention is better than cure” approach with their skin. Here’s all that you need to know about skin care & diabetes :

Dr. Geetanjali Shetty is a Consultant Dermatologist and Cosmetologist with specialization in Acne, Allergy Testing, Psoriasis and other Cosmetologically procedures. She currently heads the cosmetology clinic at Goregaon (West) Mumbai. Dr. Shetty identifies some early triggers and symptoms such as prolonged rashes, ulcers, cut, blisters, skin infections or dryness in patients that serve as signs of the condition. Diabetes comes with a complex set of complications which can affect the skin. Having high levels of blood sugar or low levels of insulin can adversely impact the skin, making it more vulnerable to foreign object injuries.

Read on to understand how to take care of your skin if you have diabetes with expert dermatologist Dr. Geetanjali Shetty.  

Markers in Skin and Body that Indicate or Underline Diabetes

Even if you have not been diagnosed with diabetes yet, there are always some trigger points or symptoms that indicate towards developing the condition. People who have a strong family history of the disease are highly likely to develop it at some point in their lives. They may also occasionally suffer from skin changes or problems that do not go away easily such as non-healing ulcers, blisters, continuous rashes in odd places, insect bites, minor irritation even after taking injections.

Following conditions are some of the early signs of diabetes in younger patients:

Acanthosis Nigricans (AN) –. Acanthosis Nigricans is a result of hormonal changes in form of pigmentation on the neck and parts of necks. This condition manifests in the form of darkening and thickening of skin and results in velvety-patchy skin especially around the neck and armpits. AN can be a sign of pre-diabetes, which increases the risk of getting diabetes at later stages. Making lifestyle changes before diabetes develops can prevent this condition from worsening.

Digital Sclerosis: This condition causes the skin on your toes, fingers, and hands to become thick, waxy, and tight. Tightening and stiffening of finger joints may also occur. Digital Sclerosis can be treated by maintaining low blood sugar levels in the body.

Scleroderma Diabeticorum: While most common in Type 2 diabetes, this condition results in the thickening of skin on the neck and upper neck and can be controlled by bringing the blood sugar levels down in the body.

Folliculitis: A common condition resulting from bacterial and fungal infections is also an underlying symptom of diabetes. Repetitive boils and fungal infections accompanied with itchy and burning skin may develop.  Keeping skin dry and consulting a dermatologist can bring down folliculitis.

Manifestations of Skin Conditions in Diabetic Patients

While some burns and fungal infections point towards underlined diabetes, neglected wounds and cuts in diabetes patients may take a bad shape and can become ulcers, if not treated immediately. These ulcers sometimes even turn in gangrenes which can become life-threatening and need to be operated. Non-healing ulcers, injuries, cuts, blisters, hair loss, repetitive vein infections, Acanthosis Nigricans, Digital Sclerosis, Prolonged fungal infections which are also seen in pre-diabetes patients, are complex conditions that need to be addressed immediately.

Diabetes patients are extremely prone towards skin problems and must maintain their blood sugar levels at ideal condition. Keeping diabetes in check and getting sugar level tests done every 3-4 months is advisable. It is also important to understand when to see a doctor regarding your skin conditions.

It is recommended to consult a dermatologist:

  • When your ulcers are not healing,
  • When your leg cracks are very intense,
  • When your rashes not getting better,
  • When you suffer from repeated attacks of folliculitis, fungal infections in the groin and underarms,
  • When regular overall health is not getting maintained with supplements and multivitamins,
  • When you get frequent foot ulcers, sores or nail bed infections.

General Skin Care & Diabetes 

Keeping the skin dry and clean is one of the predisposed conditions for diabetes patients and especially important for treating fungal infections. Skin care becomes complicated for diabetes patients and it is rudiment to understand what areas and body parts need special attention.

“Keep skin dry in areas where chances of developing fungal infection is high, like groin and armpit and keep it moist in areas which come in contact with the immediate extreme environment like hands and legs.

Here are some home-based remedies and tips to help diabetes patients take care of their skin:

  • Do not use extremely hot water on skin.
  • Apply moisturiser on the body if your skin is dry as dryness allows for allergic reactions to transpire.
  • Never pop your boils especially if you are pre-diabetic.
  • Do not use extreme products like bath or toilet soaps directly on skin.
  • Bathe two times a day to avoid developing Folliculitis or fungal infection.
  • Apply antibiotic ointment on cuts and wounds immediately.
  • Washing your privates every time you use the bathroom.
  • Wash sensitive areas with anti-bacterial solutions.
  • Follow regular diet and exercise.

Intensive Skin Care for Diabetes

Legs, hands and nails can be identified as the most delicate areas in diabetes patients. Diabetic patients take longer to recover from any foreign object injuries and hence are advised to wear well-fitted shoes at all times. Body parts which come in immediate contact with the outside environment need to be moisturized and protected, specially nails and hands. Also, not addressing injuries immediately and delaying treatment may result in sores and deadly wounds. skin care & diabetes are a crucial informative part of a diabetic patient’s life.

Following are some tips for intensive skin and foot care in diabetes patients:

  • Strictly avoid tight-fitting shoes and clothes and wear comfortable clothing.
  • Avoid improper cutting of nails and always make sure they are trimmed in proper manner.
  • Avoid skin dryness and make sure to apply moisturizers.
  • Do not over moisturize either as it may result in fungal infections. It is not advisable to combine oils, creams and soaps all at once.
  • Do not indulge in long hot tub baths.
  • Use organic talcum powder to keep sensitive areas like groin and armpits dry.
  • Avoid bathing with extremely hold or cold water.
  • Always keep your sugar in check. Get tested every 3-4 months.
  • Keep your body and skin hydrated. Cocoa butter and Shea butter are excellent moisturizing agents.
  • Do not wear slippers as it exposes feet to foreign object injuries.
  • Always consult an orthopaedic surgeon or podiatrist for inspecting and customizing special diabetes footwear for your skin.

Conclusion

Diabetes has the potential to dry out the skin and hence leave it more prone to injuries and infections. Dry and itchy skin is an open invitation to bacteria, which further complicates the skin by causing infections. Keeping the skin clean and dry is an extremely important ritual for diabetes patients. It is necessary to take care of your skin and identify which body parts need to be moisturized and which parts need to remain dry. Extra moisturising can further lead to fungal allergies and infections and hence, diabetes patients are advised to not mix creams with oils and soap. Using organic and natural moisturizing agents is recommended. One of the most important takeaways for diabetes patients, is taking enhanced care of their feet. Consulting podiatrists for diabetic foot care programs and customized orthotics is recommended to patients. Stay updated about skin care & diabetes .

In the end, if blood levels are controlled, skin complications will not occur.

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