Jewels Doskicz is a registered nurse, freelance writer, patient advocate, health coach, and long-distance cyclist. Jewels is the moderator of Diabetic Connect’s weekly #DCDE Twitter chat, and she and her daughter both live healthfully with type 1 diabetes.

Dry skin can be a big deal for people with diabetes. Whether it’s a long-standing, cyclical, or situational issue, dry skin is not only an annoyance—it is often a sign of an underlying problem.

When it comes to keeping your skin healthy, the solutions are often tied to the root issue of diabetes management.

High blood sugar

When blood sugars are high, it creates a very dehydrating environment for the body; fluids are lost and skin becomes dry. One of the best preventive solutions for this uncomfortable state of affairs is to “keep your blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible,” according to the Joslin Diabetes Center.

With high blood sugars in the mix, you'll find yourself more susceptible to skin infections, diabetic neuropathies, and a host of other health issues. Remember that skin is an organ and it functions as our protective outer layer. Dry, itchy skin may begin to crack or cause openings or sores that may or may not be painful, especially on the hands and feet. Visually inspecting the skin is vital when dry skin and neuropathy are present.

The irritants

Dry skin may be the “first sign” someone experiences with undiagnosed diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. But it is also a condition that can crop up at any point. There are a plethora of environmental irritants:

• Over washing, especially with abrasive soaps and hand sanitizers
• Certain occupations create dry skin conditions with exposure to the cold, over washing, and hard labor
• Cold weather
• High blood sugars
• Dry environments such as winter and desert landscapes
• Poor circulation
• Infections, both bacterial and fungal; yeast thrives when blood sugars are high and can be found in moist skin folds and the pubic region, causing exhaustive itching
• There are many other skin conditions that cause itching including eczema, ringworm, athlete’s foot, and scabies

Solutions

There are both preventive solutions and practical measures that may improve your comfort. "Slapping some lotion on it" is the usual go-to and may seem like a potential remedy, but often that's just not enough. If you’ve exhausted the standard solutions, you may be dealing with another skin condition that needs a professional evaluation or a much-needed diabetes appointment to adjust your care plan.

Try these tips to help your skin:

• Choose mild soaps
• Use non-irritating lotions, such as non-scented ones
• Avoid hot baths and hot tubs, which dry skin further
• Drink a lot of water
• Eat foods rich in healthy fats like nuts, avocados, salmon, olive oil, and coconut oil

To learn more about skin conditions and diabetes:

6 Skin Conditions Associated with Diabetes
A Little-Known Diabetes Skin Condition: Necrobiosis Lipoidica Diabeticorum
Solutions for Diabetic Itching Problems