Connection Between Diabetes and Itching

Diabetes and itching almost always come together, in fact, 33 percent of diabetics will suffer from one skin condition or another associated with this difficult to manage disease. Diabetes is the inability of the body to control its blood sugar levels through insufficient insulin production or the body’s inability to respond to the insulin being produced and is one of the leading causes of death in the world.

Causes of Itching

The rise in blood sugar levels can cause a number of complications to arise in people diagnosed with the disease and itching is one of the early signs, if a person is at risk for diabetes. The relationship between diabetes and itching can be explained by the rise in blood sugar:

  • Poor circulation – The rise in blood sugar among diabetics causes the blood to turn viscous or thick, and this blood does not flow readily throughout the body. It is described as sluggish blood flow resulting in poor circulation, which contributes to dry, itchy skin.
  • Peripheral neuropathy – Damage to the body’s peripheral nerves causes the sweat glands receptors not to perceive signals from the brain. This keeps the diabetic from sweating that can rob the skin of its natural moisturizer, which results in dry and cracked skin from the absence of sweat.
  • Fungal infections – Glucose is a good medium for growing bacteria and other microorganisms. Candida albicans is a fungus in the body and in the increase in blood sugar causes an overgrowth of the fungus, eventually resulting in a fungal infection that causes itching.

 Should You Scratch that Itch?

Diabetes and itching goes together unless the disease is controlled. In uncontrolled diabetes, the skin will be itchy but it is not recommended for the diabetic to scratch the itch for these reasons:

  • Peripheral neuropathy – Damaged nerves in diabetics means that when a diabetic scratches an itch, he or she might not feel when the scratch becomes an abrasion, which results in wound formation.
  • Delayed healing – Poor circulation in diabetics causes a delay in the transportation of oxygen, nutrients, white blood cells, and other blood components that can aid in wound healing. Once the scratch becomes an abrasion, healing would take place for a prolonged period of time, causing a risk for infection.
  • Necrosis – Most diabetic wounds begin with just a small scratch, as an open wound is a portal of entry for bacteria to enter. With a diabetic’s poor disrupted immune system and delayed healing, this can result in wound necrosis, meaning the tissues surrounding the wound eventually dies and in the worst case, the limb or affected area would have to be amputated.

 Eliminating the Itch

Diabetes and ItchingAlthough diabetes and itching have a direct relationship with each other, some conservative treatments to preventing an itch from occurring are:

  • Avoid dryness of the skin – Limit the number of baths in a day to avoid drying the skin.
  • Use mild, moisturized soap – Using harsh soap will rob the skin of its natural moisture, making the skin dry and susceptible to itching.
  • Moisturize after bathing – Apply moisturizer after bathing to prevent the skin from drying.
  • Rub gently – When rubbing the skin to clean or dry it, rub gently and never with harsh scrubbing. This not only robs the skin of moisture, it can also cause scratches that can become a portal of entry for microorganisms to grow.
  • Blood sugar control – Itching is relative to the body’s blood sugar level so controlling blood sugar to within normal limits will help control the itch.

Diabetics can lead normal lives and not have to fear its many complications, such as the connection between diabetes and itching. When it comes to diabetes, the key factor that helps a diabetic live a long, happy life is controlling the blood sugar. Managing your diabetes and taking good care of your skin will keep dry skin and itching from being one of the symptoms with which you must deal in your management of this complex condition.



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