Winter is here. North winds, cold temperatures, sleet, and snow wreak havoc on your skin.
With a drop in temperature, most people with diabetes experience higher blood sugar levels in winter. This occurs because the body tends to release more glucose to keep itself warm in winter, but this ends up being more harmful than helpful for those having diabetes.
The intake of comfort foods (rich in carbohydrates and sugar), a tradition of eating seasonal sweets specially made with jaggery, and a sedentary lifestyle with limited physical activity increases blood sugar levels during winter as the body is unable to process glucose.
As many as 1/4 of people with diabetes will have a skin disorder caused or affected by diabetes at some time in winter. This is what some refer to as ‘winter itch’. When sugar is high, the body loses fluid, causing your skin to become dry. This occurs because the body is turning the water into urine to remove the excess sugar from the blood.
During winter, dry air, lowered humidity outdoors, heaters in the home, hot water and more irritating fabrics such as wool can all be contributing factors to dry and itchy skin. Diabetes also affects the ability to heal those cracks and fight off any infection.
People with diabetes need to maintain proper winter skin care to avoid cracking, bleeding, and other possible skin complications
In the winter months, a moisturising cream or ointment is preferable. The thicker the moisturiser, the less evaporation of water from the skin occurs.
Skin moisturisers, which rehydrate the epidermis and seal in moisture, are the first step in combating dry skin. Regular moisturising fights dry skin.
Before you get dressed for the day, start with a daytime moisturiser. Any time you wash your face, hands, or body, you strip your skin of its natural oils.
Since these oils help to lock in moisture, it’s vital to replace them. That is why it is important to use a moisturiser any time you wash your skin, especially in winter. Creams and ointments generally work better than lotions because they are thicker and more protective. Creams and ointments are more likely to contain petroleum jelly, mineral oil, glycerine, and shea butter, which help keep moisture in the body.
Rub the moisturiser on the skin so that it does not leave your skin feeling sticky or pool between the fingers or toes. Keep a small bottle of moisturiser with you in case you need to reapply while away from home. Moisturise before bed too. Consider using a special night moisturiser because they often have ingredients that promote healing while they moisturise.
You can even opt for coconut oil as a natural moisturiser.
In case you are someone who might skip this step in a hurry, you can always keep a travel-size bottle in your purse.
Apply sunscreen daily
Sunscreen: Use sunscreen with at least SPF 30 even in shorter winter days and less sunlight to protect your skin from wind, sun, and cold temperatures if you are a diabetic patient. Apply sunscreen on top of your moisturiser. Your skin is exposed to the sun and sunburn even during the winter when the temperatures are low.
If you are living in higher hills covered with snow, then the snow can reflect the sun and increase your chances and the severity of sunburn. Lips become easily chapped in winter so protect them with lip balm that also contains sunscreen. Dry, cracked lips may increase your risk of cold sores. Keep in mind, that the snow can reflect 80% of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Hydration and nutrition
Proper hydration is essential for diabetic patients to keep the skin moisturised and prevent dryness during winter. Drink at least eight glasses of water a day. This will help your skin look fresh and supple in the long run. You can even drink fresh juices and green tea. Stay clear of carbonated beverages.
If you work in an office environment or from home, then it is more important to drink sufficient water, soups and juices as the indoor heaters suck the humidity out of the air which can cause fluctuation in body temperature.
Stay hydrated in the cold even if you are not as thirsty. Consuming water helps keep your skin moist on the inside. Drink plenty of fluids like lime water (without sugar), buttermilk, but not soft drinks and coconut water. Eat healthy food like whole grains, less saturated fat and lots of fruits and vegetables. Consume fruits and vegetables high in antioxidants, like berries and leafy greens, to protect the skin from oxidative damage. Stay away from excessive caffeine and alcohol as they can dehydrate your skin.
Don’t forget your feet
Diabetes can lead to nerve damage and numbness in your feet, so it’s imperative to check them daily for any blisters or cuts you may not feel. While full body massage is beneficial, don’t forget your scalp and feet. Even the smallest injury can be prone to infection due to poor circulation that can compromise healing. One of the main symptoms of diabetes is that cuts and wounds heal slowly.
Opt for mild ointments. A foot cream for diabetic skin helps keep this problem-prone area moisturised — but avoid applying between your toes, as this is a common spot for fungal infections. Treat yourself to a massage now and then to improve your blood circulation. You can go to a spa for this or even rope in your family members.