Although simple dry skin may be a result of washing your hands with drying soap or alcohol based cleansers too frequently, it can also be a sign of high blood glucose. When glucose levels are too high, the body has to eliminate the excess glucose through the urine. This means it has to divert some of the body’s water supply to the kidneys. If the blood glucose remains high the thirst mechanism can’t keep up with replenishing the continued loss of water and you eventually become dehydrated resulting in dry skin, among a number of other maladies.
Dehydrated skin is often itchy. When you scratch you can open up sores in the skin leaving it vulnerable to infection. In addition, very dry skin can become cracked. While physically unsightly, the cracked heels many people get during the summer can lead to infections if bacteria enter the area in someone who has poor blood glucose control. Dry, cracked skin is a portal for infection.
In addition, some people with diabetes have neuropathy or nerve damage. This can reduce the amount you sweat which can also lead to dry, cracked skin. Nor is the skin immune from the damages of vascular injury diabetes can cause. Diabetes is microvascular disease; it damages the eyes and kidneys, but it also hurts the blood vessels supplying your skin.
Keeping your blood glucose in good control is the first defense against dry skin. The following are a few other things you can do to keep your skin healthy, soft and moist:
- Use a mild soap when you shower or bathe and make sure to dry vulnerable spots such as between the toes.
- Use a moisturizing cream after bathing to keep your hands and feet well hydrated. But remember, don’t put cream between your toes; the moist, enclosed dark space is an excellent breeding ground for bacteria.
- Always check your skin for any reddened areas, open sores or skin lesions.
- Report any skin problems or concerns to your health care professional.