Now that the sun has come out of its hibernation, it’s time to start being aware of how it can affect your skin. While the sun may feel amazing and is crucial for your body, too much of it can lead to severe problems such as skin cancer. Since May is Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month there’s no better time than now to start examining that mole to see if it is cancerous.
Many skin cancers emerge from existing moles or in the form of new moles, so it is important to constantly monitor your skin. Skin cancer and melanomas sound scary, but they are actually quite treatable if caught early enough.
Remember, only a doctor can diagnose your mole as cancerous! If you have any doubts or are afraid to go to the doctor, ask your home health nurse for more information. He or she can examine the area in question and recommend what you should do. If necessary, your nurse can help you get in contact with a dermatologist. Our nurses are trained in recognizing signs of skin cancer and may be able to help alleviate your fears.
One easy way to remember the signs of melanoma is the acronym ABCDE. Here are a few tips for you to determine whether or not your mole is cancerous:
A – Asymmetry
Normal moles should be mostly symmetrical, meaning that if you divide the mole in half, both sides look similar. If you notice that your mole is not symmetrical, it may be a sign of melanoma.
B – Border
A normal mole should have a smooth, even border. Melanomas tend to have a jagged edge and look very uneven.
C – Color
Normal moles are generally a solid brown color without any variations or different colored areas. Melanomas, however, can have a variety of colors throughout the mole, including brown, tan, black, red, white, or blue.
D – Diameter
Normal moles don’t usually get too large, staying smaller than the diameter of an eraser on a pencil (about 1/4″). Melanomas can begin small but usually grow in size and are typically larger than a pencil eraser.
E – Evolving
Normal moles typically don’t change too much over time. Melanomas usually evolve, which is how all of these signs become noticeable. Other changes that can occur include size, shape, color, elevation, bleeding, itching, or crusting.
When examining your skin for cancerous moles, use a full-length mirror to assist you. Begin either at the top or bottom of your body, and be sure to check crevices between toes and fingers, as well as behind your knees and groin. Keep track of any moles you already have so that you can know if they begin to change over time. Taking photos or measurements helps to verify any changes that occur. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends performing a head-to-toe examination of yourself at least once a month. Your nurse or home health aide can assist you in this examination – just ask!
Diabetes is a common diagnosis for many of our patients. While some people are born with diabetes (type 1), most of our patients develop diabetes due to medical or lifestyle issues (type 2). While both types have different catalysts, the end result is the same – the pancreas does not produce insulin which leads to high blood sugar.
Diabetes produces an array of frustrating and troublesome symptoms. One of these problems is skin issues. Because your body has high levels of sugar, your blood acts as a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi. This reduces the body’s ability to heal itself, meaning that a simple cut or bruise takes forever to go away.
Additionally, diabetics typically have dry skin, which means staying moisturized is extremely essential. It’s hard to manage a diabetic skin care routine, but by following these tips, you can decrease the extent of your skin issues.
1. Use Talcum Powder
Using talcum powder may seem strange, but it’s actually an important method for keeping skin clean and dry. Any dirt or moistness gives harmful bacteria the chance to take over. Talcum powder absorbs moisture and cuts down on friction, which helps to prevent rashes and makes you more comfortable.
2. Avoid Very Hot Baths and Showers
There’s nothing much better than a steaming hot shower on a chill winter day. Unfortunately, though, one of the side effects of diabetes is neuropathy. Neuropathy is a nerve disease which causes numbness in the extremities. This means you might not be able to tell when the water is getting too hot and you are burning yourself. Additionally, spending an extended time in the water can wash away protective oils from your skin, leaving you vulnerable to even more dryness and flakiness.
3. Use a Skin Lotion to Moisturize
It’s essential to keep your skin moisturized and healthy, especially when you are done bathing. Preventing dry skin is essential, as dry or itchy skin can easily lead to an open sore or rash that becomes infected. It might help to buy a special diabetic skin lotion, but really any moisturizer will suffice. Never put lotion between your toes! This is a problem area for all diabetics, as the extremities are very susceptible to issues. Extra moisture in this area can encourage fungus to grow, which is both gross, smelly, and a threat to your foot health.
4. Use Sunscreen
You might not realize how important sunscreen is for preventing symptoms of diabetes. Sun negatively affects blood sugar levels because the skin gets injured from the sun, and needs to have time and energy to repair itself. Your body has to adjust, and sometimes sugars are thrown out of whack. Doctors recommend using at least SPF 15. If you are sensitive to certain ingredients, try buying a sunscreen free of extra additives.
5. Treat Cuts and Scrapes Immediately
Cuts and scrapes are actually very dangerous for diabetics, as bacteria can easily get into the wound and start causing trouble. Immediately wash the wound with soap and water to cleanse it. Avoid using products that have Mercurochrome antiseptic, alcohol, or iodine in them as they are too harsh for sensitive skin. Follow up with an antibiotic cream or ointment to help prevent infection, then seal the cut with a bandage or some sterile gauze.
6. Pat Skin Dry
Whenever you use a towel to rub your skin, it creates rough chafing which irritates your skin. Also, removing the water so quickly from your skin can actually help to dry it out and exacerbate dry skin issues. Instead, pat your skin so that some of the moisture is left behind for your body to absorb.
7. Protect Yourself From Cold
It’s a given that cold, windy weather causes dry skin. Prevent yourself from experiencing these effects by staying bundled up under a hat, boots, and gloves. And don’t forget about your lips! It is too easy for them to get dry, cracked, and chapped. Be sure to always have a soothing lip balm on hand that you can apply when you start to feel dry.
Managing your diabetic skin care routine is doable, but you have to stay on top of it. Forgetting to moisturize one day could mean your skin becomes dry and cracked the next. If you ever have any skin dryness or issues that you can’t control by using a simple routine, then do not hesitate to visit your dermatologist. He or she might have some added tips and can help by prescribing you medicated moisturizers if necessary.
All of us want to enjoy the beautiful, hot sun during the summer months in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, the summer sunshine, UV rays and heat also can bring a few dangers, especially for seniors, including sunburn, eye damage, dehydration, heat exhaustion and more.
With some precautionary steps and healthy senior personal care, everyone can enjoy the blue skies and warm weather. The following are some TIPS on how to protect your skin from the sun to avoid skin cancer, protect your eyes, and stay healthy on those days spent outdoors. Your skin is a precious organ that needs tender loving care that only you can provide!
- Use a sunscreen that has at least 15 or higher SPF (sun protection factor). For elderly with fragile, sensitive or pale skin, 30 SPF is recommended.
- Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes prior to going into the sun if possible. Apply sunscreen to all of the skin that will be exposed. Re-apply sunscreen at least every 2 hours. Apply immediately after swimming or exercise. You should use sunscreen on any sunny day, even in fall and winter.
- Stay out of the midday sun if possible. Find shade between 10 AM and 4PM. Use the shadow rule: A shadow that is longer than you means UV (ultraviolet) exposure is low; a shadow that is shorter than you means that the UV exposure is high. UV rays are the dangerous ones that cause sun burn and skin cancer.
- Wear a hat with wide 4 inch brims that cover your neck, ears, eyes and scalp.
- Wear wrap-around sunglasses with UVA and UVB ray protection. Glasses reduce the cumulative effect of damage linked to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
- Use lip-balm or cream that has an SPF of 15 or higher to protect your lips from getting chaffed, sunburned or developing cold sores.
- Turn on your air conditioning: Air conditioning is important when it is hot and humid outside. During a heat wave, if you don’t have central air or a room air conditioner, spend part or most of each day at locations with air condition, including a friend’s house, shopping mall, senior center, or movie theater.
- Watch for heat stroke: It is extremely important to watch for signs of heat stroke, especially for seniors. Some signs to look for include confusion, disorientation, dry skin, excessive tiredness, headache, lethargy, nausea, and a rapid pulse. If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
- Check on friends and family: Use the rising temperatures as an opportunity to catch up with your neighbors and relatives, especially the elderly and those who do not have air conditioning. Plan outings together in places that have air conditioning.
- Review your medications: Many seniors use medications daily. Some medications can cause side effects, like increased sensitivity to UV rays. Review all medications and check with a doctor or pharmacist for any questions.
- Drink plenty of fluids: Aim to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water per day. By the time you are thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. For seniors, the feeling of thirst decreases as we age, so be sure to increase your water intake if you are exercising or doing any type of prolonged physical activity. Of those fluids you are taking in, be sure they are non-alcoholic and decaffeinated. Carbonated sodas and pops may taste good, but they will only further your dehydration
Photo by Liam Moloney
General Sunburn Safety
If you do get sunburned, your skin may become warm, red, and blistered (in extreme cases). The area may be painful and feel itchy at times. If the pain is too much, the CDC recommends aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen. A cool shower or bath may also relieve the pain. Aloe Vera gels or creams can soothe and moisturize the skin after the bath. Since sunburns can dehydrate your body, increase your fluid intake for the next two to three days. You can also use cold water and ice packs to ease the pain and relieve swelling and redness to the affected areas. Never burst or pop blisters that form, this can increase your chances of an infection. In severe cases that do not heal with the above remedies, make sure you see your doctor.
General Skin Safety
Regularly inspect your skin in the mirror or with help from your doctor. Report skin abnormalities to your doctor such as:
- Rashes that do not go away
- Changes in the shape or size of a mole
- Abnormal redness, blistering, or bruising over a bony area
- Rashes that are raised, red or have scaly patches