Hygiene for Diabetic Patients
Diabetes is a complex disease that affects the whole body. Because prolonged exposure to elevated blood sugar levels ultimately leads to blood vessel damage, it's important to think of this illness as a whole, not just in part. The secondary symptoms linked directly to diabetes affect the body inside and out, from eyes and mouth to heart and kidneys. As a foot care nurse, you'll see the damage caused by diabetes first hand; patients with unmanaged high blood sugar and improper blood flow to the extremities will have dryer and thinner skin, are more prone to developing skin cracks and infections, suffer from skin sores and are at much greater risk for permanent damage including amputations.
The symptoms of diabetic foot conditions can start very simply. As fewer nutrients reach the cells, the skin begins to dry out. Diabetic patients can suffer from dry skin on every part of the body, not only the feet. Dry skin is more prone to tears and cracks, allowing bacteria to enter and cause infections. Unfortunately, we frequently see many patients make uninformed decisions with good intentions, such as soaking feet extensively or applying the wrong products.
Patient education is an all-important aspect of supplying adequate foot care treatments. As diabetes progresses, so do its symptoms. Diabetic patients suffer
from foot problems much more frequently than healthy patients and it
doesn't stop with dry skin. Because diabetes causes nerve damage,
patients are in danger of developing life-threatening infections from
small cuts, blisters or pressure sores. As a foot care nurse, it's
important to be able to identify the physical signs of high-risk feet
such as dry or thinning skin, swelling, ulcerations and nail dystrophy
quickly and early on.
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Staying properly moisturized is a multi-faceted process that starts from the inside out. Supplying the body with moisture from the inside by drinking plenty of water every day isn't just healthy for feet but for overall well-being. Additionally, a proper and diverse diet with a particular focus on rich omega-3 fatty acids can provide the extra protection diabetic skin needs. Omega-3s are responsible for reducing inflammation and reinforcing the cell's membrane, adding an additional layer of protection to skin.
To ensure diabetic skin is protected from the outside, patients should not soak in baths and only use mild soaps and moisturizers. We recommend specialty cleansers such as
Medline Remedy because they use phospholipids, not soap, to cleanse the skin without stripping it of its natural oils. Phospholipids form a protective barrier to prevent moisture loss and don't have to be rinsed with water. Other cleaners such as Diabetic Defense contain additional ingredients to prevent fungal or bacterial infections from forming, in the event that skin cracks already exist.
Proper foot washing and moisturizing is particularly important to preserving the overall health of diabetic patients. Don't use hot water on feet, avoid soaking, use gentle motions, never use exfoliants, and always dry feet completely. Following a medical wash with an advanced
lotion that's designed to prevent moisture loss gives diabetic skin the advantage it needs. We don't recommend using an occlusive such as Vaseline as this could increase the likelihood of fungal infections developing.