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Diabetes and Skin Care

How Can Diabetes Affect the Skin?

If you have diabetes and your blood sugar is high, the body loses fluid through excess urination and this can cause skin to become dehydrated. People who have diabetes often develop skin problems that are attributed to their disease. Insulin acts like a growth hormone, causing skin tags to grow, rubeosis (red face), rosacea, and yellow skin. However, other subtle skin changes can be seen in nearly all people with diabetes.

Your skin can also get dry if the nerves, especially those in the legs and feet, do not get the message to keep skin soft and moist (because of diabetic neuropathy). In addition, dry skin can become red and sore, and can crack and peel. Germs can enter through the cracks and cause an infection. 

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Skin problems are common in people with diabetes. High levels of sugar in the blood provide an excellent breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, and can reduce the body's ability to heal itself. These factors put people with diabetes at greater risk for skin problems. In fact, as many as a third of people with diabetes will have a skin condition related to their disease at some time in their lives. Fortunately, most skin conditions can be prevented and successfully treated if caught early. But if not cared for properly, a minor skin condition can turn into a serious problem with potentially severe consequences.

Here are some tips to help you care for your skin if you have diabetes.

Protect Skin From the Elements

To protect your skin from the sun, use sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or higher. To protect skin from the cold or wind, cover the ears and face, including your nose, and wear a hat. Also wear warm gloves and shoes or boots.

In addition, follow these guidelines:

  • Apply lip balm to prevent chapped lips.
  • To prevent dry skin when the temperature drops, use a room humidifier to add moisture to heated, indoor air.
  • When bathing or showering, use warm (not hot) water and a mild, moisture-containing soap.
  • Avoid bathing in hot water.
  • Avoid taking long baths or showers.
  • Pat skin dry; do not rub.
  • After washing and drying your skin, apply a mild lotion to prevent dry skin.
  • Avoid scratching dry skin. Apply moisturizer instead.
  • Keep a bottle of lotion near the sink so you can use it after washing your hands.
  • Limit products you use on your skin to decrease the chances of having a reaction.
  • If you are prone to acne, talk to your dermatologist before selecting a facial moisturizer. Some moisturizers tend to cause acne or make it worse. Use products labeled noncomedogenic or nonacnegenic.

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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