Diabetes can affect every part of the body, including the skin. As diabetics are more prone to skin infections, good skin care is an essential part of your daily hygiene routine. The skin is the largest organ of our body, the average adult having approximately two square metres of skin! Our skin acts as a "raincoat" to waterproof us and is essential for controlling our temperature.
Our body produces a natural oil called sebum that works to moisturise our skin and forms a protective barrier from harmful external pollutants. As we get older, this production decreases and skin becomes less elastic and the protective layers become thinner.
- High sugar levels tend to cause dry, itchy skin, which has less ability to ward off harmful bacteria. When sugar levels go high, your body will lose fluid and some of that fluid will be lost from your skin, drying it out. This increases the possibility of infection.
- Pricking your finger for blood testing can cause soreness, especially if you prick the pad of your finger. Try pricking the side of your finger and vary the finger you use - you've got tem of them, use them in rotation!
- Keep skin moisturised to prevent it becoming scaly, especially in winter, as dry flaky skin can feel itchy.
- Do not use bubble baths if you have dry skin as they can cause a loss of oil in the outer layers of the skin, causing further dryness.
- Do not have extremely hot showers or baths, as very hot water can also dry out the skin.
- Use milk, moisturising soap and shampoo.
- Treat cuts, burns and abrasions immediately to decrease the risk of infections.
- Drink plenty of water to rehydrate your body from the inside.
Diabetic dermopathy is the commonest skin disease seen in diabetics. Signs are commonly found over the shins and appear as brown scars. Red or blistering spots may appear before the brown spots. This is caused by changes to the small blood vessels in the skin, and as yet there is no specific treatment for the condition.
Diabetic neuropathy (loss of sensation) is damage to the nerves resulting from occlusion of blood vessels to the nerves. This can cause a burning or tingling sensation and numbness of the feet. Many diabetics develop sores or ulcers on the feet, which can lead to deep infection. These have to be dealt with immediately, as a foot ulcer precedes 85% of diabetes-related lower extremity amputations!
If your diabetes is well-controlled, many skin problems can be averted. Regular check-ups with your doctor and correct medication are of utmost importance.