Diabetes and itching: Know the connection

Some diabetics may complain of itching, especially in the feet. Let us tell you the connection between diabetes and itching.
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Diabetes and itching are connected. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 1 Feb 2024, 08:59 am IST
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Diabetes, a health condition that happens when a person’s blood sugar level is too high, is often connected to vision issues, kidney failure and heart attacks. Another problem that diabetics often complain about is itching. It may seem like a minor problem, but itching can make a person feel uncomfortable. It may be the reason why they are not getting enough sleep, as they wake up in the middle of night to scratch the itchy parts of the body. We tell you how diabetes and itching are connected, and ways to stop itching in diabetics.

Where do diabetics feel itchy?

Though diabetics can feel itchy anywhere, it commonly occurs in extremities. It especially happens in the lower legs and feet. In the lower legs, the nerve damage and poor circulation are prevalent and that is the reason why itching generally happens in these areas, explains endocrinologist Dr Dheeraj Kapoor.

Woman scratching
Diabetics may experience itching due to dry skin. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What are the causes of diabetic itching?

A 2021 study of 109 adults with type 2 diabetes found that 36 percent experienced itch, which had negative effects on the quality of their life. In the study, published in the Biology journal, itching often happened due to ineffective management of diabetes. Here are some of the causes:

1. Dry skin

Diabetes can cause dehydration. In diabetes, the kidneys work extra to filter and absorb the extra sugar. When they can’t keep up, extra sugar goes into the urine and it takes along fluids from the body’s tissues. This causes dehydration leading to dry skin, which is prone to itching.

2. Neuropathy

Diabetic neuropathy or nerve damage is common in diabetes, and may cause itching sensations. These sensations are due to misfiring nerves, says the expert.

3. Yeast infections

Elevated blood sugar levels create an environment conducive to yeast growth. This causes itching, especially in the warm and moist areas of the body.

4. Poor blood circulation

Diabetes causes reduced blood flow. This reduced blood flow can lead to inadequate oxygen and nutrient supply to the skin, eventually causing itchiness.

5. Compromised immune system

Diabetes weakens the immune system. This makes the skin more susceptible to infections and itching.

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Is itching a sign of other health problems?

Yes, diabetic itching can be indicative of other health problems as well. It could indicate underlying issues like uncontrolled blood sugar levels, compromised immune function, or the presence of skin infections that need attention, says Dr Kapoor. Consulting a doctor might help in early detection of other health problems which might prevent the condition from getting worse.

How to treat itching in diabetics?

You can opt for the following treatment options if you are a diabetic with an itching problem.

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1. Topical moisturisers

Keep your skin well-hydrated, as inner and outer hydration are both important. Drink sufficient water and other hydrating fluids. Keep your skin well moisturised by using a moisturiser.

2. Antifungal creams

Make sure that you use antifungal creams. They will help to combat yeast infections and prevent itching, says the expert.

Diabetic woman
Control your blood sugar level. Image courtesy: Adobe stock

3. Blood sugar control

Maintaining stable glucose levels is essential for diabetics. among various things, it can help to prevent the problem of skin dryness and itching.

4. Nerve pain medications

Taking nerve pain medications can help in mitigating this problem. These medicines are prescribed by a doctor for neuropathic itching.

5. Cool compresses and oatmeal baths

Cool compress and oatmeal baths help in soothing the irritated skin. This might significantly help in reducing itchiness. Use lukewarm water to take bath instead of hot water.

If itching persists despite home remedies and creams, or if signs of infection like redness or swelling appear, then consider going to a doctor to address underlying issues. Early detection can help in early treatment and prevent any kind of complications. Regular skin checks and diabetes management are also crucial to ensure overall well-being.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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