You might be wondering, what’s the link between diabetes and personal hygiene? While the best way to manage your diabetes is by keeping control of your blood sugar, there are some other self-care measures to keep in mind.
Maintaining good personal hygiene is important for everyone. But there are some aspects that people with diabetes need to pay particular attention to. It’s important to consider hygiene when injecting insulin, using an insulin pump and caring for your body in general. Here at mySugr, we want to let you know exactly what to bear in mind when it comes to hygiene and diabetes.
Injecting insulin is part of the daily routine for many people with diabetes. However, when “favorite injection spots” develop and are overused, problems can arise.
Here are some tips about how to keep your sites healthy!
Do not inject continuously into the same spot!
Repeat injections into the same spot on the body can contribute to the development of lipohypertrophy. Lipohypertrophy refers to a lump under the surface of the skin caused by an accumulation of subcutaneous fat and/or scar tissue which can become thick or hard. Lipohypertrophy lumps can lead to absorption issues with your insulin due to an increase in connective tissue and can be prone to irritation and infection.
Remember to “vent” or “prime” your pens prior to use!
This means you point the needle away from you and inject 2-3 units into the air to remove any air bubbles in the dose (we like to call that an air shot). You know you have successfully primed when a few drops of insulin come out of the needle.
- Be sure to AVOID the following injection sites:
- Stretch marks
- Cuts, scrapes and scars
Regular injection site checks are a wise move
Your diabetes team should check your injection sites at least twice a year. This is typically done at your regular check-up and doesn’t require an additional doctor visit. You can also do it yourself! Using a mirror, you can look for asymmetrical elevations at your favorite injection points. Likewise, run your fingers along the area and feel for lumps and bumps under the skin’s surface.
For more information about injection location health check out this article.
Pump User Hygiene
Similar to injection needles, the trend for catheters for insulin pumps has gone towards shorter cannulas to infuse the insulin in the subcutaneous fatty tissue. But they should also be rotated and moved frequently.
Some insulin pumps utilize tiny steel needles, while others use a flexible teflon cannula. Your pump manufacturer and care team can guide you specifically, but the typical rule is that pump sites should be changed between 2-3 days at the latest.
If you struggle to maintain good control of your blood sugar, your skin can become pretty dry. It’s important to keep skin hydrated, by drinking lots of water and using moisturizer. Skin that’s super dry can become cracked and infected.
High blood sugar in the saliva can also increase levels of bacteria in the mouth. Bad bacteria can trigger gum disease and tooth decay. To maintain good oral health, brush your teeth twice a day, floss once per day and make regular trips to the dentist. To find out more, check out our article on oral health.
Blood sugars that are consistently above your target range can cause neuropathy (or nerve damage) in people with diabetes. Neuropathy commonly occurs in the feet. Nerve damage in the feet can lead to infection when left untreated. It’s a good idea to check your feet often so that problems can be detected and treated early on. Washing your feet every day, caring for your toenails and checking for cuts, redness, swelling, sores, blisters, corns and calluses are all great ways to maintain good foot hygiene.
There’s so much to think about when living with diabetes. But it’s a great idea to pay attention now, to avoid potential problems later. Personal hygiene is an important self-care method. Do yourself a favour! Keep these hygiene tips in mind and provide you and your diabetes monster with the care you both deserve.
All information in this article is based on the following sources:
Foot Health Facts 2020, accessed 26th October 2020, <http://www.foothealthfacts.org>
Diabetes Forecast 2014, accessed 25th October 2020, <http://www.diabetesforecast.org>