There are more than 380 million diabetics worldwide, and the number is increasing. In the near future, one in ten adults will suffer from this disease. Diabetes causes many detrimental effects on our health; every part of the body is concerned, including the skin. So, how can you avoid diabetes skin complications that could eventually lead to an amputation?
What Are The functions of the skin?
Skin is not only a protective cover against external aggression! With its 200 000 nerve fibers that allow the transition of information to the brain, the skin is also a reliable informant of the brain regarding all external events. This vital organ turns out to be an insightful indicator of all our internal problems, whether psychological or physiological.
The skin consists of three layers:
Responsible in particular for receiving the sensations of touch, defending the body, protecting it against the microbes, etc.
A thicker form that ensures the tonicity of the skin, as well as its firmness and thermoregulation.
It is the energy reserve for fatty cells; it ensures the regeneration of cells and thermal protection.
What Causes Diabetes Skin Complications?
People suffering from diabetes, for long periods, show increased tendency to have skin problems. One diabetic out of three suffers from skin changes, which are, often, the first sign of the presence of the disease.
High levels of blood glucose in the skin cause biochemical changes which alter its structure and functions. These changes are the cause of dryness and loss of elasticity as well as early skin aging.
During hyperglycemia, sugar levels can become very important in the blood. The normal reaction of the body is trying to eliminate sugar, and for that, your skin loses moisture. You also urinate more often, which contributes to more water loss.
Your skin thus, tends to dry out and dehydrate. Pimples and rash may occur, causing irritation and itching.
Nerve damage in diabetes weakens the connections between the skin and the nervous system. This makes the skin more vulnerable to external attacks, and decreases sensitivity. In addition, blood flow may be affected and cause small complications at the skin.
Small sores can then worsen without you even noticing it! So, it is important to regularly check the condition of your skin, not to mention the bottom of the feet!
What Are The Common Diabetes Skin Conditions?
The skin of diabetics tends to easily suffer from the following conditions:
Infections by bacteria and fungi (especially Candida albicans)
These infections cause inflammation, itching, redness, blisters and squames in different areas, including:
- below the breasts
- around the nails
- between the fingers and toes
- around the corners of the mouth
- armpits and groin
Changes in skin color
Velvety, light-brown-to-black markings (acanthosis nigricans) may appear. This skin condition causes areas of skin to darken and thicken, including the back of the neck, armpits, under the breasts and groin. Vitiligo is also a common condition, this produces discolored areas of skin on the breast and belly.
Also known as “shin spots“. It appears as small light brown, circular, scaly spots, which appear frequently on the front legs. They should not be confused with age spots.
Blisters, ulcers, warts, dander, cracking, itching, ingrown toenails and increased sensitivity to sunlight. Most of these skin conditions affect commonly the feet, since diabetes affects the bloodstream.
Diabetes Skin Prevention and Care
Fortunately, most of these problems can be avoided and successfully resolved before becoming a threatening element for the health of your skin. Here are some tips.
- Wash your body with a gentle, mild soap and carefully wipe every part, leaving no excess water. Pay special attention to the space between your fingers where soap residue often hides.
- Use moisturizer, but do not put it between fingers. Ensuring the skin is well hydrated is one of the easiest ways to prevent problems when you are a diabetic.
- Avoid baths and showers with hot water, which can dry out the skin excessively.
- Watch for red spots, blisters and sores which could eventually become infected.
- Monitor your feet, especially the occurrence of lumps or a change in appearance, and have them examined by an expert at least twice a year.
- Treat immediately cuts, after washing them with water and soap.
- Control blood pressure and cholesterol, which will improve blood circulation and benefit the skin.
- Drink sufficient liquid (like water and sugar-free drinks), which will help keep the skin hydrated.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which nourish the skin, such as: fish like salmon, sardines, tuna or mackerel, soy tofu, walnuts or flaxseed.
Diabetics should be aware that their illness requires additional attention. Any observed alteration of the skin justifies a visit to your regular dermatologist.
Please share with us what worked for your skin.