Diabetes can affect every part of the body, including the skin. About a third of people with diabetes will develop skin problems at some point. In fact, some skin issues can be a warning sign of diabetes. The good news is that most skin conditions can be treated easily, if they’re caught early. Keeping proper control of your blood sugar (glucose) can prevent skin problems, and many other diabetic symptoms, from surfacing in the first place. Some skin-related problems with diabetes are easy to see and others a bit more difficult.
■ Dry, itchy skin
■ Slow to heal cuts and wounds
■ Peripheral neuropathy that often causes dull or sharp pain, sleep loss, loss of feeling (especially in the feet, legs and hands), numbness and loss of sensitivity to temperature extremes (hot or cold); all of which may cause mobility concerns, such as a loss of balance or difficulty in walking
■ Skin infections
■ Loss of skin elasticity and tone from dehydration and poor blood circulation
■ Increased sensitivity to sun and ultraviolet light
Here are some ways you can prevent skin problems:
■ After you wash with a mild soap, rinse and dry thoroughly in every nook and cranny of your body. Keep your skin moist by using a lotion or cream after you wash. Ask your dermatologist to suggest a good lotion. Keep a bottle of lotion near the sink so you can use it after washing your hands. You should use a fragrance- free and dye-free
■ Avoid very hot baths and showers, which can dry your skin. Extended exposure to water softens the feet and makes your skin more prone to being pierced.
■ Inspect your body for red spots, blisters and sores that could lead to infection.
■ Look for any bumps or changes in appearance on your feet and have your doctor look at your feet at least twice a year during your physical examination.
■ Treat cuts right away. Wash minor cuts with soap and water.
■ Apply lip balm to prevent chapped lips.
■ Take good care of your feet. Check them every day for sores and cuts. Wear broad, flat shoes that fit well. Check your shoes for foreign objects before putting them on.
■ Keep your blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible.
■ Control blood pressure and cholesterol by taking prescribed medications, which will improve circulation and keep your skin healthy.
■ Drink plenty of fluids, like water and caffeine-free, sugar- free drinks, to keep your skin hydrated.
■ Eat foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which nourish the skin. This includes fish like salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel, as well as tofu and other forms of soybeans, walnuts, flaxseed and their oils. You are far less likely to develop skin problems if you take good care of your skin, and have healthy blood glucose, blood pressure and blood cholesterol (lipids) levels. See a dermatologist about skin problems and don’t wait too late as in diabetes, the healing time is slow. Prevention as they say is better than prolonged medication.
— Dr Chytra V Anand is a cosmetic dermatologist