PEOPLE with diabetes may be prone to skin and foot problems. Here are a few simple things you can do every day to protect your skin and feet:
Dry skin can be caused by dehydration, which occurs in poorly controlled diabetes. Remember that excessive urination and thirst are symptoms of diabetes. For dry, itchy skin, try Alpha Keri bath oil. A capful in bath water softens and lubricates your skin. But be careful -- bath oil makes your tub slippery.
Use a lanolin base cream to hold moisture in your skin. Keri-Lotion, Nivea Cream, and Eucerine cream all contain lanolin and moisturize the skin well. Udder cream has no added perfume. It is inexpensive and easy to apply.
People with poorly controlled diabetes are prone to skin infections because elevated blood sugar reduces the effectiveness of bacteria-fighting cells. Carbuncles, boils, and other skin infections may be hazardous if not properly treated. Even a small cut may progress to a deep, open sore, called an ulcer, if not treated promptly. In most cases, good hygiene (clean skin) and good diabetic control will improve your body's ability to resist infection. Sometimes, however, antibiotics are necessary.
People with poorly controlled diabetes may experience yeast infections in the underarms and especially in the genital-anal area. Women sometimes suffer from severe vaginal itch or a rash under the breasts. The most common yeast infection, candidiasis (moniliasis) produces an intense itch and a cheesy-white discharge. The first treatment is to control blood sugar, which often stops the infection. Powders, creams, and suppositories may also be recommended.
In long-term diabetes, blood circulation to and from the feet decreases, slowing the healing process for foot injuries. Because nerves in the feet may not work well, you may not feel small foot injuries and therefore you may fail to treat them promptly. Untreated foot injuries can become infected or ulcerated.
To avoid foot problems, keep your feet clean and wear comfortable shoes and socks at all times. Keep your feet warm, and take care of toenails and calluses.
See a podiatrist (foot specialist) and when you visit your doctor, make sure he or she checks your feet (socks off) during the examination.
If you notice any change in sensation in your feet, contact your doctor or diabetes educator at once.
You may feel no pain when you injure your foot, but that doesn't mean you can ignore the injury.
Always keep these foot care supplies on hand:
REMEMBER: The care of diabetes is a team effort involving you, your physician, and the diabetes education staff where you receive your medical care. This handbook cannot-and was not meant to-replace this team effort.
This handbook embodies the approach of the diabetes care team at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Different diabetes care teams may approach some aspects of diabetes care in ways that differ from those in this handbook. While most teams are in close agreement regarding the GENERAL PRINCIPLES of diabetes care, they may differ in the DETAILS. There can be more that one "right" way to approach a specific issue in diabetes management.
Always remain in touch with your diabetes care team, and bring any questions you may have about the materials in this handbook to their attention!
Copyright 1995-1999 Ruth E. Lundstrom, R.N. and Aldo A. Rossini, M.D. All rights reserved.
Feedback: send e-mail to Dr. Aldo Rossini