Diabetes: how should you take care of your skin?

Skin care is always an important habit, but it becomes even more important for people with diabetes.

Learn here why, what are the most common skin problems among people with diabetes, how to prevent them and what care should be taken into account.

Why does diabetes affect the skin?

Reduced sensitivity and circulation problems caused by diabetes can favor the appearance of skin conditions and make them difficult to detect.

People living with diabetes may also experience increased fluid loss from the body due to high blood glucose levels. This causes dryness in the legs, hands, and elbows, among other parts of the body.

When cracks or fissures occur in the skin, germs are more likely to enter and cause infections, which, if not properly controlled, can lead to serious complications, such as diabetic foot ulcers or amputation.

Skin problems associated with diabetes

Among the skin problems linked to diabetes, the most common are:

  • Acanthosis nigricans: causes darkening and thickening of the skin. Areas of tan or brown skin, sometimes slightly raised, often appear on the sides of the neck, armpits, and groin.
  • Bullosis diabeticorum: are blisters that can appear on the fingers, hands, toes, feet, legs or forearms. They are usually painless and heal on their own.
  • diabetic dermopathy: occurs due to damage to blood vessels and causes light brown or red scaly patches, usually on the front of the legs. These do not hurt, they do not form blisters, they do not itch, nor do they require treatment.
  • Scleroderma diabeticorum: Causes thickening of the skin on the back of the neck and upper back.
  • digital sclerosis: the skin of the fingers becomes thick, waxy and tight. It can also cause joint stiffness.
  • Disseminated granuloma annulare: Causes reddish or reddish-brown rashes on the fingers, hands and feet, but can also occur on the trunk. It does not usually require treatment.
  • bacterial infections: There are different types: carbuncles (deep infections of the skin and underlying tissue), boils (infections of the hair follicles), or styes (infections of the eyelid glands). The involved areas are usually hot, swollen, red, and painful, and are treated with antibiotics.
  • fungal infections: Candida albicans is responsible for many of the fungal infections that affect people with diabetes. It causes red, itchy rashes, often surrounded by small blisters and scales.
  • Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum: Affected skin becomes yellow and waxy in appearance, often with a purple border. Sometimes it is itchy and painful, but as long as the sores do not break, treatment is not necessary.
  • Pruritus: It is an itch that can have many causes, such as candidiasis, dry skin or poor blood flow. The feet are usually the most affected part of the body.
  • Allergic reactions: It is important for people with diabetes to look for rashes or bumps in the areas where they inject insulin.
  • vitiligo: is a condition in which the cells that produce pigment (a substance that controls skin color) are destroyed. This results in patches of discolored skin. It usually affects the elbows, knees and hands, although it can be located on the face.
  • Eruptive xanthomatosis: Characterized by firm, yellow bumps surrounded by red halos that may be itchy. They are usually found on the feet, arms, legs, buttocks, and backs of the hands.
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How to take care of the skin

The skin care that people with diabetes must take into account does not differ from that that the rest of the people have to carry out. However, some extra tips may be useful to reduce the risk of problems:

  • Wash with a mild neutral soap.
  • Limit the products you use on your skin to lower your chances of having a reaction.
  • Stay hydrated so that the skin maintains its strength and elasticity.
  • Do not bathe in very hot water and avoid long showers. Bubble baths can also be harmful, especially if you use detergents or soaps with abrasive effects.
  • Protect your skin from the sun in summer using sunscreens, while in winter cover areas exposed to low temperatures with gloves, hats or warm boots.
  • Wear special shoes and socks if you have diabetic neuropathy (a type of nerve damage that can occur from diabetes and causes numbness in your legs).
  • Blot nicely between your toes, under your arms, or in any other creases or places where water can hide.
  • If you cut yourself, treat the wound as soon as possible by washing it with soap and water. It is advisable to avoid using products such as alcohol or iodine, as they can have sudden effects on the skin. Instead, see your doctor for antibiotic creams or ointments.
  • Use lip balm to prevent chapped lips.
  • Use moisturizing lotion to keep skin soft and moist.
  • Wear loose-fitting underwear, 100% cotton if possible, to maintain good airflow.
  • Keep an eye out for any dry or red patches on the skin. If dry skin is persistent, consult a health professional.
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diabetes can be prevented

Although the incidence of diabetes in the population is increasing, and it is one of the main causes of mortality in this century, experts insist on emphasizing that it is a preventable disease. For that, keep in mind the following tips:

  • eat properly: Add to your diet foods with a low glycemic index (a measure that indicates how quickly a food can raise blood sugar levels), rich in minerals, vitamins, fiber and antioxidants. For example, broccoli, berries, kale, kiwis, legumes, apples, fish, seeds, or grapes. In turn, avoid sugary, refined, salty or processed products.
  • Do physical activity: exercise has a double function to prevent diabetes: it increases the body’s consumption of glucose, while it stimulates the muscle fibers, favoring the transport of sugar into the cells.

If you already have diabetes or prediabetes, it is important to check your glucose levels frequently to prevent any complications, including skin problems.

To remind:

People with diabetes may experience increased fluid loss from the body, circulation problems, and reduced sensation.

This favors the appearance of many common skin disorders, which, if not checked and treated properly, can lead to serious problems.

A good way to prevent problems and take care of the skin is by keeping it hydrated, limiting the use of products on the skin, monitoring spots or marks that appear, avoiding hot or long showers, using neutral and mild soaps, or treating wounds correctly.

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If you already have diabetes or prediabetes, it is important to check your glucose levels frequently to prevent any complications, including skin problems.

Sources consulted: US National Library of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.

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