You probably know that diabetes can affect many parts of your body, including your heart, kidneys, nerves and eyes. But did you know that diabetes can also affect your skin? Having diabetes can raise the risk of certain skin problems, including dry skin, bacterial and yeast infections, itching, and acanthosis nigricans (darkened, thickened skin). You can help avoid these and other skin problems by following the steps below.
Tips for Healthy Skin
- Keep your diabetes managed as best you can. It’s not always easy, but aiming to keep your blood sugar and A1C levels as close to target as possible can greatly lessen the chances of developing skin problems. High blood sugar levels can lead to dry skin and certain types of skin infections. Talk to your healthcare provider about steps you can take to get and keep your blood sugar and A1C in a healthy range.
- Stay clean and dry. It should go without saying, but it’s important to shower or bathe regularly. Wash with a mild soap and be sure to dry your skin thoroughly, especially between your toes.
- Keep your skin moisturized. Dry skin is especially concerning if you have diabetes because it can lead to cracks and peeling skin. Cracks in your skin allow bacteria and fungi to enter, greatly increasing the chances of infection. After bathing or showering in warm (not hot) water, apply a mild, unscented moisturizer to your skin. Avoid putting moisturizer between your toes, which could encourage the growth of fungus.
- Check your skin daily. Look at your skin every day, checking for red spots, blisters, burns or sores that could lead to an infection. Call your doctor or dermatologist if sores, blisters, rashes or other skin problems aren’t going away.
- Treat cuts right away. Even the smallest cut or sore can become a big problem. Wash a cut with soap and water and cover with sterile gauze.
- Protect yourself from the sun. Wear a hat and sunglasses when you’re outside. Always wear sunscreen, too, even if the day is cloudy. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. And don’t forget your lips – apply a lip balm that also contains sunscreen.
- Inspect your feet every day. Look for cuts, sores or redness, and let your doctor know if a cut or sore doesn’t seem to be healing. If you can’t see or reach your feet, ask someone to check them for you.
- Stay hydrated. Keep your skin (and the rest of your body) hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids each day. A good guide is for men to aim for about 13 cups of fluid daily, and for women, about 9 cups per day.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are healthy fats that can nourish and strengthen your skin. Good sources include salmon, sardines, walnuts and fortified eggs.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants that protect skin from premature aging. These antioxidants include vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene.