Like most things in life, your skin care routine will probably change as you get older—and if you have diabetes, the consequences of ignoring skin care could be a lot worse than a few freckles. Luckily, most skin conditions can be prevented or easily treated if they are detected early on.
How Diabetes Affects the Skin and Nails
High blood sugar levels from diabetes can cause problems throughout a patient’s body, including skin and toenail problems such as:
- Dry skin. Blood sugar imbalances can pull moisture from the skin, causing cracks, blisters, or peeling in the feet.
- Numbness. Peripheral neuropathy can stop patients from feeling the pain of an injury, the roughness of dry skin on their feet, or the heat from an infection or ingrown toenail.
- Toenail changes. Diabetes can cause the toenails to yellow, crumble, or become deformed. As the nail loses strength and becomes more porous, it creates the perfect environment for a fungal infection.
While these complications may seem minor, they are often the first sign that a patient is at increased risk of injury. This is why diabetic skin care is vital to the prevention of serious health conditions.
How Patients With Diabetes Can Protect Themselves From Foot Injuries
Many people experience skin and nail changes as a result of diabetes. However, you can help prevent these complications from becoming a serious health concern if you:
- Keep your feet clean and dry. Hot baths and showers can dry the skin out, so keep the water at a lukewarm temperature. Use mild shampoos to avoid skin irritation. If you have experienced skin chafing, apply a small amount of powder to the area after showering.
- Moisturize carefully. Whether you want to keep your skin soft, avoid wrinkles, or just keep your healthy glow, moisturizing is key to taking care of the skin you live in. Unfortunately, using too much lotion at once can build up on the skin, promoting fungal infections. Apply moisturizer to the feet sparingly, and don’t put lotion between your toes.
- Check your shoes. People with diabetes should wear shoes anytime their feet hit the ground, even indoors. Footwear should be big enough to avoid squeezing the toes, but not so big they chafe or pose a tripping hazard. Always check your shoes for holes, pebbles, or other hazards before putting them on.
- Take cold weather precautions. Forced-air heating systems and a lack of moisture in the winter air can make skin drier in the winter. Invest in a humidifier to mist water into the air in your home, and bathe less often to encourage the body’s natural oils. Never scratch at dry skin, and this can cause breakages that lead to infection.
- Examine your feet daily. It only takes a few moments to perform a diabetic foot self-examination, and it should be part of your daily routine. One foot at a time, examine the top, sides, heel, and sole of both limbs. Spread your toes apart and use your fingers to check between them. Look for anything unusual, such as cuts, bumps, blisters, discolored spots, or temperature differences.
- Treat cuts immediately. Even the smallest break in the skin can have serious consequences. If you have a cut, wash it with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment, and cover it with sterile gauze.
- See a podiatrist. If you discover something out of the ordinary or your foot injury refuses to heal, you should make an appointment in our office as soon as possible. We offer free initial consultations to determine the root cause of the problem, and create a customized treatment plan to get you back on your feet.
Whether you have an ongoing condition or need immediate intervention for an injury, the foot specialists at Greater Washington Advanced Podiatry are here to help. Simply fill out our online contact form or call us at (301) 515-FEET to set up your first visit.