Dry, cracked skin and winter go hand in hand, but the risk for diabetics is greater than the general population, according to health care workers.
Cold weather makes it harder to keep skin hydrated, but moisturizers can help, according to Katie Kelly, family nurse practitioner for the Durham Diabetes Coalition.
“I think the biggest thing as we go into the winter months is to keep the skin hydrated and moisturized,” Kelly said. “People with diabetes have a tendency for drier skin. If your skin cracks, you’re prone to infection and we want to prevent that.”
Keeping the feet free of infection is especially important, she said.
“Make sure to check your feet for any sore or irritation,” Kelly said. “If you find any cuts, be quick to wash them with soap and water to prevent bacteria from causing an infection.”
If foot infections don’t heal properly, that can lead to a long course of wound care.
“The infection can spread, and can be a precursor to amputation,” she said. “This is why we focus on foot care and preventing any open wound on the foot, because those infections are sometimes slower to heal.”
Using a good moisturizer is important in cold weather. Two that Kelly recommends are Cetaphil and Eucerin.
Kelly also suggests that diabetics consider not taking a shower or bath daily, and avoid very hot water, which quickly dries the skin.
Keeping the body hydrated by drinking plenty of water can also keep the skin from drying out.
“During the cold months, we encourage people to wear socks and shoes that cover the entire feet and to protect their skin outdoors,” she said.
The American Diabetes Association and Joslin Diabetes Center offer these tips:
- Use talcum powder in areas where skin touches skin.
- Don’t use moisturizers between the toes.
- Keep your home more humid in cold, dry months.
- Inspect skin for spots, blisters or sores.
- Treat cuts right away.
- Drink lots of fluids like water and drinks free of sugar and caffeine to stay hydrated.
- See a dermatologist about skin problems you can’t solve.
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids to nourish the skin.
To watch a video on foot care, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzy0g_3hQzU