When you have diabetes, it affects the body’s major systems and organs, including the skin. However, the two types of diabetes, type 1 (T1) and type 2 (T2), are different in a few key ways. The question is—do those differences affect your skin differently, too?
The Rundown on T1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is the less common of the two types, affecting between 5 to 10 percent of all people with this chronic condition. It is sometimes called insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes. With this type of diabetes, the pancreas makes no or very little insulin, a hormone that allows glucose to enter cells and produce energy.
T1 often develops in children, teens, and younger adults, but anyone can develop it at any age. It has shown links to autoimmune disorders, genetics, and some viruses, but there may be no definitive cause in some cases.
A person with T1 diabetes will need to take insulin every day for their body to process glucose. An absence of insulin causes blood glucose levels to rise, causing circulatory problems and damage to many of the major body systems and organs, including the nerves, eyes, kidneys, and skin.
T1 isn’t preventable, but it’s manageable using regular insulin injections or an insulin pump to manage blood glucose levels.
The Lowdown on T2 Diabetes
With T2 diabetes, the pancreas releases insulin, but the cells don’t respond to it as they should, a condition known as insulin resistance. The body still believes it needs more insulin because glucose isn’t entering the cells for energy production. Consequently, the pancreas releases higher levels of insulin, but blood glucose levels continue to rise even though the pancreas is functioning properly.
Unlike T1, T2 does give some early indicators with a condition known as prediabetes, where the body shows insulin resistance but is still processing enough glucose to keep blood glucose levels within a healthy range. Without treatment or behavior changes, prediabetes develops into T2 diabetes.
Another key difference between T1 and T2 is that T2 diabetes can sometimes be managed through a healthy diet and regular exercise, eliminating the need for insulin or medications to control blood glucose. However, there are others, who even with a healthy diet and exercise, may need medications or insulin to manage T2 diabetes.
Diabetes and Your Skin
The differences between T1 and T2 diabetes may change how the condition is treated and managed. However, their effects on the body, including the skin, are the same. When it comes to the skin, high blood glucose levels can cause changes or damage in the circulatory and nervous systems.
Untreated high blood glucose levels cause restricted blood flow and hardening of the capillaries, the smallest transporters of blood throughout the body. They’re also the source of blood for the skin. Poor circulation due to diabetes reduces the skin’s ability to heal and can affect temperature regulation.
Diabetes can also damage the nerves in the extremities, especially in the hands and feet. That damage can prevent individuals with diabetes from feeling heat, cold, or injury in the feet or hands. When that’s coupled with the lack of blood flow, individuals with diabetes are at higher risk for skin injury and infections that are slow to heal.
What can you do to protect your diabetic skin?
Diabetic skin needs careful daily care to stay healthy and strong, including:
- Washing the skin with a gentle, non-drying cleanser. Harsh soaps can dry the skin, making it prone to cracking. Try VitalFit’s Daily Cleanser, a formula designed to reduce odor, bacteria, and inflammation while maintaining the skin’s natural moisture.
- Moisturizing every morning and night. Well moisturized skin resists scrapes, cuts, and other damage. Apply a daily moisturizer every morning. VitalFit’s Day Moisturizer includes antifungal, antibacterial ingredients, so it’s safe to use in the narrow areas of the body, like between the toes where fungal infections easily take hold. VitalFit’s Night Moisturizer can also aid the daily healing process while you sleep.
- Inspect the feet and prevent injury. Check your feet every day for signs of injury or infection. Wear well fitting shoes and comfortable socks to prevent blisters and other fit issues.