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.
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.
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:
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.
Diabetic neuropathy or nerve damage is common in diabetes, and may cause itching sensations. These sensations are due to misfiring nerves, says the expert.
Elevated blood sugar levels create an environment conducive to yeast growth. This causes itching, especially in the warm and moist areas of the body.
Diabetes causes reduced blood flow. This reduced blood flow can lead to inadequate oxygen and nutrient supply to the skin, eventually causing itchiness.
Diabetes weakens the immune system. This makes the skin more susceptible to infections and itching.
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.
You can opt for the following treatment options if you are a diabetic with an itching problem.
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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.
Make sure that you use antifungal creams. They will help to combat yeast infections and prevent itching, says the expert.
Maintaining stable glucose levels is essential for diabetics. among various things, it can help to prevent the problem of skin dryness and itching.
Taking nerve pain medications can help in mitigating this problem. These medicines are prescribed by a doctor for neuropathic itching.
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.