Diabetes is a condition that raises the risk of other health issues as well. In fact, diabetes-related blood sugar imbalances can negatively impact not only other organs of the body, but also the skin. If you have diabetes, you may be susceptible to dry skin that can crack, itch, and get infected easily.
Apart from dry skin, blood sugar fluctuations can also cause blisters, red or dark patches on the skin, bacterial infections, diabetic dermopathy (a condition marked by light brown patches) and acanthosis nigricans (a darkened band of thickened, velvety skin, particularly in the area near the armpits, groin, and back of the neck).
Health Shots spoke to Dr Nivedita Dadu, a renowned dermatologist and founder and chairman of Dadu Medical Centre, who shared the best ways or tips to avoid skin issues if you have diabetes.
But first let’s take a look at why diabetes causes skin issues.
Diabetes and skin problems
Dr Dadu says, “Most people with diabetes or pre-diabetic conditions notice some recurring skin issues or have skin disorders at some point in their life. Diabetes causes high blood glucose, which can lead to poor blood circulation in the body. As a result, the blood vessels and nerves do not get enough blood and nutrients. Hence, decreased blood circulation reduces the skin’s ability to heal and damages skin collagen, thus robbing the skin of its ability to ‘bounce’ back.” Due to this, the white blood cells also lose their ability to fight infections, which is one of the causes of developing diabetic feet.
What kind of skin problems do diabetics have?
Damaged skin cells lose the ability to function well, and the skin experiences increased sensitivity to temperature and pressure. During the initial stage of diabetes, people experience skin patches. Patches can form on the neck or armpits. Some people experience pale skin as well. “Due to poor blood circulation, itching can occur on various parts of the body, especially on the lower legs,” says Dr Dadu.
Diabetes also makes your skin sensitive, increasing the likelihood of cuts and bruises. If these injuries are ignored, a more serious infection may develop because diabetes slows the healing process by interfering with the immune system’s activation.
Here are 7 tips to maintain skin issues if you have diabetes, according to Dr Dadu:
1. Follow a healthy lifestyle: People with a history of diabetes in their family should also be on the lookout for symptoms of vitiligo and psoriasis. Regular medication, exercise, and a controlled diet to keep diabetes under control can help control most skin problems.
2. Maintain skin hygiene: Keep your skin clean and dry, especially in problem areas such as underarms, under the breasts, between toes, and around the groin area.
3. Do not take a hot shower: Avoid very hot baths and showers. Bathe twice in hot, humid weather to decrease sweating, thereby reducing chances of infection.
4. Keep your skin moisturized: Moisturize your skin twice a day. Apply moisturizer all over the body if your skin is dry, as dryness allows for allergic reactions to transpire.
5. Take good care of your feet and hands: Diabetics are more likely to get skin and other ailments related to the extremities. Check them every day for sores and cuts. Wear broad, flat shoes that fit well.
6. Treat the wound immediately: Apply antibiotic ointment on cuts and wounds immediately.
7. Always wear sunscreen: Wear an SPF 40 sunscreen every day. Sunscreen will protect your skin from sun damage and its harmful effects.
Lastly, drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated and include foods such as cinnamon, jamun, aloe vera, berries, tomatoes, amla, curd, lemongrass, etc. in your diet.