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Diabetes: 5 Steps to Total Body Care

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5 Steps to Total Diabetes Body Care continued...

2. Skin Care and Diabetes

Bacterial infections, fungal infections, and itching are common skin problems anyone can develop, but they're especially problematic for people with diabetes because of poor blood flow and because the body may not be fighting infection well. Avoid extremely serious complications. Don't ignore these problems:

  • Bacterial infections like boils (hair follicle infections) require antibiotic treatment.
  • Fungal infections include the yeast-like fungus called Candida albicans, which often occurs in warm, moist folds of the skin: under the breasts, around the nails, between fingers and toes, and in the armpit and groin areas.
    • Jock itch(in the genitals and thighs), athlete's foot (between the toes), ringworm (on the feet, groin, chest, abdomen, scalp, and nails) and vaginal infections are very common when blood sugar isn't controlled. These may require treatment with prescription medications, though occasional over-the-counter antifungal treatments may work.
    • A fungal infection called mucormycosis (contracted from soil fungus and decaying plants) can become extremely serious, especially for those with out of control type 2 diabetes. It may start as a sinus infection that gets worse, and can spread to the lungs and brain. Symptoms are sinus infection, fever, eye swelling, skin redness over the sinus area; occasionally ulceration can occur with drainage. See a doctor immediately; this can be life-threatening.
  • Itching caused by dry skin, a yeast infection, or poor blood flow (in the legs especially) is often a result of diabetes. Using lotion or creams can provide relief.

Other skin conditions are caused by poor blood supply and some by your body's resistance to using insulin.

Rashes, bumps, and blisters can also occur; some require treatment, some don't. You need to know which is which and get them treated when necessary.

For instance, eruptive xanthomatosis, a skin condition, is caused by high cholesterol and fat levels in the blood. It appears on the backs of arms, legs, and buttocks as firm, yellow, waxy, pea-like bumps which are typically itchy and surrounded by red halos. Medication to control fat levels in the blood help, as does controlling blood sugar.

Prevention tips: Boost your body's ability to fight infection, and help prevent dry skin, by controlling you blood sugar. Use talcum powder in areas prone to infections and use moisturizing lotions and soaps when needed. (Don't put lotions between toes; extra moisture there can trigger fungus growth.)

And remember, see your doctor for treatment of skin problems that won't go away -- especially foot problems and fungal infections. These can be very serious, and require treatment with prescription medication.

3. Eye Care and Diabetes

Diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the eyes, leading to serious preventable problems like cataracts, glaucoma, and retinopathy.

  • With a cataract, the eye's lens becomes cloudy, blurring vision. While anyone can get cataracts, they may develop at an earlier age -- and progress more quickly -- if you have diabetes.
  • Glaucoma occurs when pressure builds inside the eye due to fluid not draining properly. The pressure damages the eye's nerves and blood vessels, harming vision.
  • Retinopathy is caused by blood vessel damage in the eyes, and if not diagnosed and treated early, can lead to blindness.
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