People with diabetes are more susceptible to infections, even when they are rooted in something that seems as minor as dry skin.
Symptoms of Dry Skin
While everyone gets dry skin from time to time, a chronic more serious issue might include:
- Itchy skin
- Cracked heels
- Open sores
Causes of Dry Skin
While dry skin can be a year-round issue, it can be exacerbated during cold weather months. In the winter, moisture disappears due to cold, dry air and heaters or fires in homes. Both healthy people and those with diabetes will notice an increase in itchy hands and chapped lips.
Hyperglycemia—the elevated blood sugar associated with uncontrolled diabetes—can cause dry skin throughout the year. The imbalance in body chemistry causes the skin to react severely. If your blood glucose is too high, your body quickly loses fluid. This in turn will dry out your skin.
Neuropathy can also contribute to issues with dry skin for people with diabetes. When your diabetes is uncontrolled for too long, it can cause nerve damage. If you have damaged nerves in the lower extremities, they won’t receive the message from your brain to sweat. Since sweat is what keeps skin moisturized, dry skin can easily occur.
Dry skin is not a small matter for people with diabetes. It can become red and sore, and if left untreated can crack. Cracks can also occur from scratching if the skin becomes itchy and irritated. Germs then enter through these skin cracks and can cause an infection.
Again, due to a loss of sensation in the limbs, some diabetics won’t even notice there is an issue until an infection has occurred and medical help is needed. Blood glucose promotes a breeding ground for bacteria, and it causes the body to not be able to heal itself as effectively.
It’s important to do regular checks of your hands, feet, legs, and arms to look for dry skin and treat it immediately.
How to Prevent Dry Skin
Since the feet are usually most affected due to their constant use and pressure placed upon them, using a high-quality moisturizing cream can help prevent damage and infection. A podiatrist can prescribe an effective moisturizer that is safe for people with diabetes.
Other steps to take include:
- Wash your feet in warm (not hot) water every day, using mild cleansers that won’t dry out or irritate the skin. Avoid soaking in hot water, which can be especially drying.
- Protect your skin from the weather with breathable clothing with good coverage and appropriate footwear.
- Keep your blood sugar in check. Choose a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and meet regularly with your medical team to keep things on track.
When to See a Podiatrist
Any cracks in your skin are a sign it’s time to go see a podiatrist. Blood sugar acts as “food” for an infection, and it can make it much more difficult to heal.
You should also see a podiatrist when:
- You see signs of infection or irritation.
- You are experiencing discomfort.
- You are overweight. (Obesity contributes to dry skin due to the extra pressure it puts on the feet.)
It’s a good idea to see a podiatrist regularly for foot checks even if you don’t suspect an issue. It can be difficult to see every portion of the skin, especially if illness or obesity is an issue. A podiatrist can examine you thoroughly every few months and ensure you are doing everything you can to prevent severe skin issues that can start with something as simple as dry feet.
Are You Looking For Diabetic Foot Care in Austin, TX?
If you are looking for diabetic foot care, you should reach out to an experienced podiatrist. Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists can help. Our office provides a wide variety of advanced, effective treatment options for all kinds of painful conditions. Ready to schedule an appointment? Contact us online or call our Austin office at 512.328.8900.