When insulin resistance increases, our skin may be one of the first organs to be effected. Knowing what to look for and watching our skin closely is very important both to the appearance of our skin and as a sign/symptom of the condition of our general health and diabetes. Here's a helpful article from LifeScript.com:
Top Diabetes Skin Conditions and How to Spot Them
By Rona Berg, Special to Lifescript
Got an itchy rash or bumps that won’t go away? It could be a result of diabetes, a chronic metabolic disorder that affects major organs. See which diabetes skin treatments will work for you…
Diabetes elevates blood sugar levels, leading to high blood pressure, glaucoma and even serious problems in your heart. The chronic metabolic disorder can also leave its mark on your largest organ: your skin.
About 33% of people with diabetes develop a related skin condition, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). In fact, a chronic rash, fungal infection or blister is often the first clue to the disease.
“Most skin conditions are due to immune-system deficiencies caused by high blood sugar,” says Betel Hatipoglu, M.D., an endocrinologist at the Cleveland Clinic.
These outbreaks can be as benign as dry skin or small yellow rashes (resulting from high cholesterol) to brown spots (signaling insulin resistance), boils and serious infections that could land you in a hospital.
“The key is to get treatment early – before they turn into a major problem,” advises Debra Jaliman, M.D., F.A.A.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
Read on to identify the most common diabetes skin conditions and how to treat them.
Diabetes skin condition #1: Dry Skin
When blood glucose levels run high, cells lose fluid and skin becomes dry, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard Medical School. “Diabetics also urinate a lot [because of] high blood sugar,” causing dehydration, explains Hatipoglu.
•To hydrate adequately, drink plenty of fluids, like water and caffeine-free, sugar-free drinks.
•Avoid hot baths and showers, which dry up skin.
•Use an extremely mild, emollient soap with no fragrance, Jaliman says.
•Choose mild products recommended for babies or sensitive skin.
•Pat, don’t rub, skin dry, and apply a thick balm directly afterward, adds Hatipoglu.
Watch out: Dry skin can become inflamed and itchy, and scratching can create cracks that allow germs to enter. Keeping skin moisturized provides a barrier against infection.
Diabetes skin condition #2: Itchy Skin
The medical term for itching is pruritus, which can be triggered by poor blood flow, a common problem for people with diabetes. The itching can be confined to one spot or occur in many parts of the body. If it lasts more than six weeks, it's considered chronic. In diabetics, the lower legs and feet are most often affected.
•Treat as you would dry skin: Use moisturizers, and avoid hot baths and using too much soap.
•Get to the root of the problem by controlling high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
•Eat foods rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines, albacore tuna and mackerel, as well as tofu and other forms of soybeans, walnuts and flax seed. These soothe inflammation and nourish skin from within your body.
•Take fish-oil tablets; 1-4 grams (g) is recommended by the National Institutes of Health, but check with your doctor on whether to take supplements and the best dose for you.
Watch out: If you take fish-oil supplements, buy those labeled “mercury-" and “heavy-metal free” to avoid ingesting the toxic heavy metal, advises Holly Lucille, Los Angeles-based R.N. N.D. (doctor of naturopathic medicine), and author of Creating and Maintaining Balance: A Woman’s Guide to Safe Natural Hormone Health (IMPAKT Health).
Diabetes skin condition #3: Digital Sclerosis
This skin disorder, more common in people with type 1 diabetes, causes waxy, tight skin on toes, fingers and hands because of excess collagen production. The fingers may also become stiff.
•Get blood glucose levels under control.
•Using moisturizers may help soften skin.
Diabetes skin condition #4: Cuts and Nicks
Everyone suffers occasionally from paper cuts or other minor household injuries, but these can be especially problematic for people with diabetes. That's because their wounds take longer to heal due to poor circulation and nerve damage.
•Wash with antibacterial soaps to help prevent infection, advises Debra Liftman, M.D., clinical instructor of dermatology at University of California, Los Angeles, a Beverly Hills dermatologist, and co-author of The Beauty Prescription (McGraw-Hill).
•Another option: soaps with tea tree oil, a natural antiseptic, as long as you’re not allergic.
•If you break the skin, disinfect the area and apply Polysporin, which Luftman recommends because it doesn't contain neomycin, which can be allergenic.
•“A healthy diet, rich in fruits, vegetables and leafy greens boosts your immune system,” Hatipoglu says, along with supplements of vitamins C, B, A, and probiotics from foods like yogurt with live lactobacillus, a friendly bacteria.
Diabetes skin condition #5: Nail Infections
Mani-pedis can be a woman's favorite treat, but people with diabetes need to be careful when getting them. Harmful infections can start under or around the nails and are often transmitted at nail salons.
•To minimize chances of infection, “never get your cuticles cut or pushed back during a manicure, and when you go to the nail salon, bring your own manicure kit,” Luftman advises.
Diabetes skin condition #6: Boils
Boils occur when a staph infection penetrates the skin near a hair follicle, causing a pus-filled lump. They appear most commonly in areas where you sweat or feel friction, such as your neck, face, armpits, butt or thighs. Most boils rupture and drain on their own, but you can take steps to speed healing.
•Apply rubbing alcohol to disinfect the boil, followed by a topical antibiotic ointment. Be careful not to break the skin.
•If the boil doesn’t heal for several weeks, see a dermatologist to make sure that you it's not MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), “an antibiotic-resistant bacterial staph infection,” Jaliman advises.
Diabetes skin condition #7: Fungal Vaginal, Nail and Foot Infections
A yeast-like fungus known as candida albicans is common in people with diabetes.
In fact, it’s often the first sign that women have diabetes and that blood sugar levels are awry, says Carol Livoti, M.D., Manhattan-based ob-gyn and co-author of Vaginas: An Owner's Manual (Da Capo Press).
The infection, caused by the tinea fungus and also called ringworm or athlete's foot, appears as an itchy, red rash surrounded by small blisters and scaly patches in moist folds of skin – for example, under breasts, in the vaginal area, on nails, between toes or in the mouth and tongue or groin.
•To prevent vaginal yeast infections, avoid perfumed, colored toilet paper or scented tampons and ask your doctor if you can treat it with an over-the-counter topical anti-fungal cream, like Lotrimin or Monistat. Oral anti-fungals and suppositories might also be prescribed.
•Over-the-counter creams, powders and sprays, such as Lamisil, are also available for athlete’s foot and ringworm.
Diabetes skin condition #8: Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticorum (NLD)
This rare condition is triggered by changes in collagen and fat beneath skin, and appears as a dark red rash or violet bumps that can be painful and itch.
It typically appears on the lower legs. Its cause is unknown, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology (AOCD).
•See your doctor to confirm diagnosis. They may prescribe cortisone injections, which are more effective than topical steroidal creams, according to the AOCD.
•Ultra-violet light therapy is another effective treatment option.
Watch out: “These are entry areas for infection,” Hatipoglu says. If you have open sores, contact a doctor immediately.
Diabetes skin cond. #9: Neuropathy (Dryness, Burning, Numbness, Skin Ulcers)
Neuropathy occurs when nerves are damaged and is a long-term complication of chronic high blood-sugar levels. It announces itself with pain in the lower extremities, burning and numbness. As a result, nerves in the legs and feet may not get the message to release sweat, necessary to keep skin soft and moist.
•Alpha lipoic acid, a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, can be an effective complementary treatment for neuropathy, according to Hatipoglu. “If you introduce it early, before permanent damage is done,” he says. Alpha Lipoic acid can help aid impaired circulation, improve cells' sensitivity to insulin and glucose, and relieve painful nerve conditions.
•Try neem leaf or its oil, applied topically to skin ulcerations and taken internally, in a multi-herb supplement, says Trinity Ava, instructor, herbal medicine, California School of Herbal Studies and Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash. “Neem supports the body’s ability to respond to inflammation (diabetic sores) while simultaneously boosting immune system and liver function,” she says.
Watch out: Neuropathy can lead to foot ulcers that don’t heal and cuts you can’t feel, which can then worsen and become infected. The worst case scenario: amputation.
If you have diabetes, contact your doctor right away if you experience any of the following problems:
•Changes in skin color
•Changes in skin temperature
•Swelling in the foot or ankle
•Pain in the legs
•Open sores on the feet that are slow to heal or are draining
•Ingrown toenails or toenails with fungus infection
•Corns or calluses
•Dry cracks in the skin
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