By Joy Pape, RN, BSN, CDE, WOCN, CFCN
Many people think that having dry skin is a result of having diabetes. It’s true, but it’s important to know there are other factors that may cause your skin to be dry such as the environment and other underlying conditions.
Sure, diabetes can cause havoc all over your body, but it’s not always the cause of everything that may be going wrong. Many times there are other causes. Sometimes your problems may be related, sometimes not.
Diabetes can cause your skin, including the skin of your feet, to be dry when you have:
- Higher than normal blood glucose levels pull fluids from your body, causing dry skin.
- Diabetic neuropathy can cause you to sweat less which can be drying to your feet.
- Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) causes dry feet because it affects the arteries that “feed” your legs and feet.
Other causes of dry skin and feet may be:
- Low humidity
- Dry heat in winter months
- Thyroid problems
- Athlete’s foot
- Certain skin conditions such as psoriasis or eczema.
- Side effects of certain medications
When your skin is dry, your skin is more apt to “crack” open or cause calluses. When your skin cracks, you lose the protection your skin provides from the environment.
Calluses act like a foreign body, causing pressure, which can then cause a sore. Both situations increase your chance for infection.
With diabetes, infections don’t heal as well, which increases your risk for amputation. These problems are preventable and treatable.
What you can do for softer, supple skin:
- Keep your blood glucose and blood pressure in your target range.
- See a podiatrist routinely and for anything that bothers you.
- Use a humidifier in areas with low humidity and during the winter months.
- Be a detective. Talk with your healthcare provider about other causes for dry skin, such as those listed above. Once you’ve detected what the problem is, together you can make up a plan to improve your skin.
- Age healthfully. There’s nothing you can do to turn back the clock, but you can prevent complications and live a healthier life by managing your diabetes.
- You can also keep your skin moist but applying your moisturizer while your skin is damp to “lock in the moisture.”
NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.
Updated by dLife Editors 1/19.