Skin problems related to diabetes are still very common. About a third of people with diabetes have skin problems, especially dry skin. Fortunately, most of these problems are treatable before they become serious. The key is early detection.
1. Why should Skin care for People with Diabetes?
Patients with diabetes have extremely sensitive skin. Their skin is often dry, prone to damage, difficult to heal wounds and leaves scars. Skin that is too dry can cause itching, cracking, and infection. The cause of the problem is that the patient’s skin loses its ability to retain moisture and has a reduced ability to heal itself.
Therefore, patients should have moisturizing methods to limit skin damage caused by cuts, scratches, animal bites, etc. to avoid infection and deep infection. Taking good care of your skin also helps you prevent future skin problems.
When a diabetic’s skin is damaged, it needs first aid and proper wound healing. Because, when there is an open wound, bacteria are easy to enter the body and grow to cause infection, especially for diabetics, high blood sugar is an ideal environment for bacteria to multiply. On the other hand, the patient herself has a weak immune system, so it is twice as difficult for the body to heal itself.
If the wound is detected late, the small wounds will become big problems, causing difficulties in the treatment process and leaving unpredictable consequences. Due to high blood sugar will cause nerve damage, making the patient less able to perceive pain, heat or cold. By the time the wound was discovered, it was already very infected. Therefore, doctors often ask patients to examine their feet every day, even small wounds or calluses must know how to handle.
2. Causes of Dry Skin and Skin Diseases for Diabetics
Blood sugar levels rise, causing the body to use a large amount of water to neutralize the sugar and excrete less sugar in the urine, then the skin will become dehydrated and become dry.
Plus, over time, diabetes damages blood vessels and damages nerves in the body. If the autonomic nervous system is damaged, the activity of the secretory glands will be disturbed. When sweating is reduced, it will aggravate dry skin in people with diabetes.
Dry skin can appear on the hands, fingers, feet and some sensitive places such as armpits or hidden areas with a lot of rubbing.
Dry skin is then prone to cracking, itching, flaking and is at a very high risk of infection if not treated promptly. Therefore, people with diabetes need to be more aware of the prevention, early detection and treatment of complications of dry skin.
For people with diabetes, dry skin can be more than just an irritation and can be very dangerous. Dry skin caused by diabetes complications makes it easier for the skin to peel off, losing its outer layer. The outermost layer is the skin’s first defense against bacteria and acts as a barrier to prevent bacteria from entering.
What’s more, because bacteria use sugar to live, people with diabetes who don’t control their blood sugar are at increased risk for bacterial infections—bacteria that thrive in environments high in sugar. That’s why even the smallest cut can become a major infection when your blood sugar is consistently high.
3. How to Treat and Care for Dry Skin in People with Diabetes
3.1. Control blood sugar
Controlling blood sugar is the most important step in curing diabetes. Maintaining stable blood sugar helps reduce neurological complications and peripheral arterial complications. It also helps blood flow to the extremities better, increasing the body’s resistance and self-healing ability.
Thereby, minimizing skin-related problems as much as possible. The reason is that an infection will cause blood sugar to rise, but high blood sugar will make the wound heal longer.
As such, you should strive to achieve a healthy weight, control your eating more closely, reduce salt intake, maintain a healthy blood pressure, and exercise. Those are high requirements, but you should consult your doctor about increasing your oral dose or switching to insulin injections temporarily.
3.2. Control blood pressure
People with diabetes are often associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure. Norwood, Chief of Family Health Services at Henry Ford Hospital West Bloomfield, Michigan, USA: “The skin is the largest organ in the body, so it will be affected by everything else, causing adverse effects to your health.” Therefore, to maintain a healthy skin, patients need to control blood pressure by measures such as:
- Take medicine regularly
- Exercise regularly
- Healthy eating
- Go to bed on time
These measures will help lower blood pressure and blood sugar, increasing blood flow to the skin. As a result, the skin will be healthier and more resistant to pathogens.
3.3. Moisturize skin regularly
Moisturizing your skin is a must every day to achieve your long-term goal of combating dryness. The areas of the body that are most susceptible to dryness are: legs, arms, back and abdomen.
Dry skin is usually treated with a moisturizer. Some researchers suggest that oil-based creams are better than water-based creams at moisturizing the skin. Currently, on the market there are moisturizers specifically for diabetics. However, Stephanie Kovacs, a clinical nutritionist and diabetes expert in the State of Columbia – USA, said that just using coconut oil is enough to moisturize.
In case of itchy skin, tips such as applying a cold towel, applying fresh aloe vera, oats or a paste of baking soda with water can help you reduce this discomfort.
3.4. Moisturizing skin in cold and hot weather
During cold days, should pay special attention to moisturize skin. If you’re indoors, use a moisturizer or humidifier regularly. A humidifier will help make sure the air in your home isn’t too dry. If outdoors, wear gloves and socks to protect against cold winds. It is best to use waterproof gloves for better warmth.
Similarly, the patient must also carefully moisturize in the summer. Use sunscreen every day and never walk barefoot. Even walking on the beach requires shoes or sandals.
3.5. Do not bathe with water that is too hot
Hot showers provide temporary comfort, but are not beneficial. For diabetics, hot water can dry out the skin, making it more prone to cracking. This inadvertently opens the door for bacteria to enter and cause an infection. Due to high blood sugar levels, the more favorable bacteria grow, the harder it is for the infection to heal.
According to Dr. Norwood, diabetics should not bathe in hot water more than 48℃, do not soak for more than 10-15 minutes. Some diabetics have peripheral nerve damage, numbness in the limbs, and poor heat sensitivity. Dermatologist Elaine Gilmore – University of Rochester, New York, USA advises patients to test the water with the forearm or another part that is still feeling. Alternatively, a thermometer can be purchased to check the water temperature before bathing.
3.6. Keep skin clean and dry
Besides moisturizing, some areas require staying dry. These are the areas of skin under the arms, under the chest area, between the legs and between the toes. Moist environment in these areas may become favorable conditions for fungal development itching.
Therefore, the patient needs to make sure to dry these areas thoroughly after each bath. Patients can use a dryer to dry faster, but need to dry at a moderate temperature to avoid causing burns.
3.7. Choose neutral soap
For people with diabetes, do not choose soaps with strong detergents. These substances can cause dryness, irritation of the skin and do not have a moisturizing function.
According to Dr. Norwood, patients should choose products that contain oatmeal. The ingredients in oatmeal have the ability to both cleanse, moisturize and soothe the skin after each use.
3.8. Drink a lot of water
Drinking plenty of water is the secret to healthier skin. The scientists also found that people who drank less than eight glasses of water a day maintained more stable blood sugar than those who drank less than two glasses of water a day. The cause is thought to be because a lack of water in the body leads to increased vasopressin levels in the body. This hormone has the ability to stimulate the liver to produce more blood sugar.
3.9. Eat healthy food
Foods that are beneficial for people with diabetes are: whole grains, low-saturated fats, fresh fruits and vegetables.
Limit eating too much starch, sweets, greasy foods or dried fruits. The composition of dried fruit also contains a lot of sugar – a group of substances that are harmful to patients.
3.10. Clean the wound with a suitable antiseptic solution
As soon as a wound on the skin is detected, especially on the foot, the patient needs to have appropriate treatment.
If the wound is light, just wash it with physiological saline. Then, smear the wound with a suitable antiseptic solution to promote healing and avoid bacterial superinfection.
If the wound is more severe or has progressed to an ulcer, the patient needs to complete 3 steps:
- Clean the wound: Clean the wound with physiological saline. Use tweezers that have been disinfected with disinfectant to remove foreign objects, if any.
- Wash or wipe the ulcer with an antiseptic solution: Do not use products containing alcohol or povidine iodine because they cause pain, stinging, staining of the skin and slow healing of ulcers.
- Dressing sores: Dress the sores carefully, limiting the exposure of the ulcer to the environment.
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