According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes afflicts more than 25 million children and adults in the United States. Of these, 7 million do not know they have the disease. At some point in their lives, about 1 in 3 people with diabetes will develop skin problems related to the disorder.
Most skin conditions suffered by people with diabetes are due to immune-system deficiencies caused by high blood sugar. These outbreaks can be as harmless as dry skin or a rash or may result in a serious infection. Diabetics tend to get the following skin conditions more easily:
- Bacterial infections--such as styes, boils, and nail infections
- Fungal infections--such as athlete’s foot and ringworm
- Neuropathy--which can lead to foot ulcers, and in a severe case, amputation
If not cared for properly, a minor skin condition in a person with diabetes can turn into a serious problem with severe consequences. The good news is that most skin problems can be prevented and treated with proper care and early detection. The role of your dermatologist can be very important in early recognition of skin conditions associated with diabetes.
Tips for controlling your diabetes and improving your skin health:
- Control your blood glucose level. Manage your diabetes by following a proper diet, exercising and checking your blood sugar levels on a regular basis.
- Moisturize. Prevent dry skin by using a lotion after washing.
- Inspect your feet. Feet are especially vulnerable to injuries due to poor circulation and lack of sensation that is associated with diabetes. Make sure your shoes fit properly, never walk barefoot, use extra precaution when cutting toenails and check your feet daily for minor injuries that can often go unnoticed.
- Keep skin clean and dry. Keep your skin clean by washing regularly in warm water and using mild soap. Gently pat your skin dry, paying extra attention to places where water can hide.
- Protect your skin from the sun. Always apply sunscreen to protect your skin from burning and blistering that can lead to serious infections.
- Inspect skin daily. Check daily for any changes in your skin, paying special attention to known problem areas such as the feet. Changes in skin color or temperature, swelling, pain or open sores that are slow to heal may signify a problem. Notify your dermatologist right away if you suspect a problem.
Keeping your diabetes under control is the most important factor in preventing the skin-related complications of diabetes. Follow your healthcare provider's advice regarding nutrition, exercise, and medication. A dermatologist can help diabetic patients identify skin conditions and recommend the best course of prevention and treatment.
Brown spots and skin discoloration are frequent complaints for many people. The most common form of irregular pigmentation is hyperpigmentation, a condition in which patches of skin become darker in color than the normal surrounding skin. Some people have abnormal skin pigmentation from a young age, and for others it is brought on later in life by sun damage or injury to the skin. Individuals of all ages, ethnicities and skin types can be affected, although those with darker skin tones are more prone to develop it.
Hyperpigmentation usually appears as brown spots and dark patches on the face, chest, arms and hands. This darkening occurs when an excess of melanin, the brown pigment that produces normal skin color, forms deposits in the skin. Sun exposure, acne, genetics and hormonal changes can trigger or worsen irregular pigmentation.
Not all pigmentation problems can be avoided, but you can follow preventive measures to control and reduce dark spots from forming. It is especially important to use adequate sunscreen, manage your acne and discontinue the use of any oral medications that may be contributing to the problem.
How Can I Combat Hyperpigmentation?
The good news is that skin hyperpigmentation isn’t dangerous, and proper treatment can help rejuvenate troubling patches on the skin. There are many treatments at your dermatologist’s disposal, ranging from topical creams and dermabrasion to chemical peels and laser procedures. Your dermatologist will work with you to determine the most suitable treatment for your particular skin type and problem.
Although a frustrating condition, your skin complexion can be improved and corrected. Talk to your dermatologist about the best treatment options for you.
If you find yourself constantly brushing off white flakes of skin from your shirt collars and shoulders, then you may have a common skin condition known as dandruff. Dandruff is the shedding of excessive amounts of skin from the scalp, a condition that can be itchy, bothersome and embarrassing.
Most cases of dandruff are a mild form of a skin condition called seborrheic dermatitis, an inflammation of the scalp and sometimes the skin of the eyebrows, eyelids, nose, ears and chest. It occurs in areas that have the greatest number of sebaceous (oil) glands and is likely caused by a combination of an overproduction of skin oil and irritation from yeast. Psoriasis, a fungal infection or simple dry skin may also trigger dandruff. Hormonal or seasonal changes often make the itching and flaking worse.
The good news is that dandruff can almost always be controlled. Most mild cases of dandruff can be managed by shampooing regularly with a gentle, over-the-counter shampoo to reduce oiliness and skin build up. Your dermatologist can help you determine the best shampoo for your specific needs. Other tips for controlling dandruff include:
- Limit hair products. Hair sprays, gels and mousses can create excess build-up on your hair and scalp, increasing its oiliness.
- Treat your scalp gently. Harsh shampoos, daily blow-drying and forceful brushing can damage your scalp and make dandruff worse.
- Avoid scratching. Although tempting, scratching at dandruff can cause further irritation.
If you don’t see an improvement after several weeks of over-the-counter treatment, or if the condition worsens, visit your dermatologist. Severe cases of dandruff may need a prescription-strength or antifungal dandruff shampoo or cream to improve the skin condition.
Don’t throw away your dark clothes yet! With a little persistence and extra care, it’s possible to get your dandruff under control.
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. More that two million people in the U.S. are afflicted by skin cancer each year, and that number is only rising. Melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer, accounting for approximately 75 percent of skin cancer deaths.
Skin cancer can be deadly, but it is also very curable when detected early. Along with proper prevention and sun protection, you should examine your body regularly to check for any suspicious spots or changes as they develop.
When You Spot It You Can Stop It
Early detection of skin cancer can save your life. Self-examine your skin regularly, at least once a month, to look for unusual skin changes. Visiting your dermatologist routinely is also helpful, as they can do a full-body exam to make sure existing spots are normal. Regular self-exams should become a habit. It only takes a few minutes, and this small investment could save your life.
Warning Signs: What to Look For
By regularly examining your body, you can detect skin cancer in its earliest stages. Notify your dermatologist immediately if you identify any of the following symptoms:
- A skin growth that appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black or multicolored
- A mole, birthmark or any spot that: changes color, increases in size or thickness, changes in texture or is irregular in outline
- A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, scab, crust or bleed
- An open sore that does not heal within a few weeks
- A change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness or pain
A suspicious spot may be nothing, but its better to be safe than sorry. Always consult your dermatologist or physician if you notice any changes in your skin that seem abnormal.
ABCD’s of Skin Cancer Detection
As a good reminder, follow the ABCD rule as a guide for detecting skin cancer. Any of the below symptoms warrant a call to your dermatologist.
- Asymmetry: One half of a mole or spot doesn’t match the other half.
- Border: The edges of a mole are irregular or blurred.
- Color: The mole’s color or pigmentation is not uniform and/or has shades of brown, black, white, red or blue.
- Diameter: The spot or mole is larger than ¼ inch or 6 mm, approximately the size of a pencil eraser.
Skin cancer can be life-threatening, but it is also very preventable and treatable. Start taking care of your skin now by recognizing the early signs of skin cancer and protecting your skin from the sun.
Don’t over-complicate your skin care routine with a multitude of products. Taking care of your skin should be simple. In most cases, all it takes is daily cleansing, proper nourishment and protection from the sun and other harmful toxins.
All skin types need cleansed once or twice a day, especially before bed. Gently wash your face to remove old make up and grime that accumulate over the course of a day. If you notice a pimple or blemish, don’t pick. It won’t get rid of it faster and may lead to scarring. Follow with a moisturizer or lotion to retain moisture and prevent skin from drying out.
A well-balanced diet should also be an important part of your skin care regimen. Drink plenty of water and eat vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean protein. Berries, leafy greens, nuts and fish are rich in antioxidants and good for your skin. Exercise, get plenty of rest and reduce stress to keep skin looking and feeling its best.
Sun protection is important for every skin type. To guard against sun exposure, wear a hat and sunglasses when outdoors, seek shade when possible and avoid the hours of the day when the sun is its strongest. Always apply sunscreen to avoid premature aging, wrinkles and skin cancer, no matter what time of the year. Smoking is not only bad for your general health, but it can also damage your skin - when you smoke you expose skin to harmful toxins, which can accelerate aging skin.
A basic skin care routine is not only essential, but it’s easy. In many cases, enhanced daily cleansing, improved diet and heightened awareness about sun exposure and skin protection is all it takes to achieve more youthful, flawless skin. Talk to your dermatologist whenever you have questions or concerns abut your skin or your daily skin care routine.
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