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Caring for Your Skin & Foot with Diabetes: A Vital Lifestyle Choice

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Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects millions worldwide, and while most understand the importance of managing blood sugar, the link between diabetes and skin care often goes unnoticed. Skin problems can impact overall well-being, making it essential to embrace skin care as a lifestyle choice, especially if you are living with diabetes.

Proper skin care is integral to managing diabetes effectively and avoiding significant skin conditions, such as infections, open sores, and non-healing wounds. As you journey through the intricacies of diabetes, make caring for your skin a vital part of your lifestyle.

The Diabetes-Skin Connection: More Than Meets the Eye
The connection between diabetes and skin health goes far beyond the surface. Diabetes brings a heightened vulnerability to skin issues such as dryness, fungal infections, diabetic dermopathy, and delayed wound healing. Recognising this link is pivotal to managing the condition effectively, and your skin’s health becomes an essential aspect of your lifestyle.

Why Diabetes Skin Care Matters?
The stakes are high when it comes to diabetes management. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in 2019, 1.5 million lives were claimed by diabetes. High blood sugar is not just a number; it affects various bodily components, including your skin. For many, a skin problem serves as an early warning sign of diabetes. Those elevated glucose levels are often the culprits behind the dry, itchy skin.

But here is the lifestyle twist – many individuals living with diabetes are not aware of the vital role that proper skin care plays. It is not just about administering insulin and watching your diet; it is about a comprehensive approach to well-being that includes your skin.

Diabetic Skin Care Recommendations
Here are some practical lifestyle recommendations for maintaining healthy skin in diabetes journey:

1. Use gentle cleanser when bathing/ showering

  • Avoid bar soaps as they strip away natural oils and disrupt skin barrier function
  • Cleansers contain perfumes and harsh detergents that may cause irritation and redness
  • Gentle cleansers help maintain hydration and prevent skin dryness

2. Bathe or shower the right way

  • Use lukewarm water as hot water strips away natural oils and damages the skin
  • Keep it short, not longer than 10 minutes

3. Dry your skin carefully

  • Gently pat your skin dry
  • Remember to dry the skin between your toes, armpits and other skin folds
  • Intertrigo occurs more easily in warm moist environments especially in diabetic patients

4. Apply moisturizer every day

  • Select a preferred hypoallergenic, fragrance-free cream or ointment
  • Apply your cream or ointment after bathing or when your skin is dry or itchy
  • Keep your skin moisturized and prevent cracks that lead to infection

5. Check your feet daily

  • Dry your feet carefully
    Make sure to check between your toes and your feet for rashes, cuts, sores or any other changes to the skin
  • Use a mirror if you cannot see your soles

6. Wear shoes that fit well

  • Always wear shoes and socks to avoid injury
  • Wear closed, well-fitting shoes with cushioned sole
  • Check if there is any object or pebble inside your shoes before wearing

7. Treat dry, cracked heels

  • Apply urea cream on dry, cracked hills every day before getting into bed
  • This can prevent non-healing sores and serious skin infection

8. Take care of your toenails

  • Keep your toenails short & trim them straight across
  • Gently smooth any sharp edges with a nail file
  • Do not let the sides of your toenails grow into the skin

9. Get treatment for corns and calluses on your feet

  • Do not remove corns or calluses yourself with sharp objects
  • Any skin injury on the feet may increase the risk of ulcers and infection, especially patients with diabetic neuropathy
  • Over-the-counter products may irritate your skin

10. Treat all wounds immediately

  • Wash the wounds with antiseptic and water
  • Apply antibiotic cream only if recommended by doctor
  • Cover the wound with an adhesive bandage
  • Perform daily dressing to help your skin heal

Diabetic patients are at higher risk of infection, seek immediate medical care for skin infection if you have any of the following:

  • Skin is swollen and reddish
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Honey-coloured crusts
  • Change in the colour and temperature of your feet
  • Wound that is weeping or leaking pus
  • Thickened or discoloured nail

Incorporating these lifestyle recommendations can significantly enhance your well-being. Your skin is the first line of defense, and its health is paramount to your overall quality of life. Diabetes does not have to be a barrier to living well, but it does require a comprehensive approach that includes caring for your skin. Your lifestyle choices can make all the difference in the world.


This article is contributed by Dr Gan Tek Sheng, Consultant Dermatologist, Tung Shin Hospital and does not represent the views or opinions of Health Matters Malaysia.


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