Can Type 2 Diabetes Be Causing My Itch?
Last updated: March 2022
Do you find yourself constantly scratching? Maybe you have an itch that comes and goes. Or your skin has developed a rash or bumps. What could be causing your skin to be so sensitive and irritated?
Believe it or not, type 2 diabetes can be a source of sensitive skin, skin-related irritations, and skin discomforts that lead to itching and scratching.
Skin conditions related to type 2 diabetes
The list of skin-related complications associated with type 2 diabetes is wide ranging: everything from dry skin to nerve damage. Poorly managed blood glucose levels can lead to skin damage and irritation. Also, diabetes can make you more susceptible to infections that can lead to itchiness and irritation. Even so, the connection between diabetes and a skin condition might not always be obvious.1,2
Chronically high blood glucose levels can damage blood vessels throughout the body. When this happens to the vessels in and around the skin it can lead to skin conditions, irritations and itchiness. The skin can become thin, dry, scaly, and/or discolored.
Nerve damage caused by chronically high blood glucose levels is called diabetic neuropathy and can cause itchiness and irritation. One of the more common types of neuropathy people with diabetes experience is peripheral neuropathy.
Peripheral neuropathy usually affects the feet and legs first, followed by the hands and arms. It causes a feeling of numbness, loss of sensation, a heightened sensitivity to touch, and/or a tingling or burning sensation that can be mistaken for an itch.
Additionally, people with type 2 diabetes are more susceptible to both bacterial and fungal infections, which can affect the skin. When blood circulation is compromised due to diabetes it slows healing. If left untreated, these infections can lead to permanent damage to the skin.
Daily skin care brings relief
Basic, regular skin care can go a long way towards keeping your skin healthy and relieving any itches or irritations you might have.3,4
Keep skin clean and dry
The number one thing you can do is keep your skin clean and dry. By doing this you’re removing potential irritants and supporting healthy skin.
Avoid exposure to extreme temperatures
Avoid exposing your skin to extreme temperatures, hot or cold, is another simple way to encourage healthy skin. Extreme temperature can lead to burns that damage the skin. Keep your bath or shower temperature temperate. Avoid getting sunburn or frostbite.
Keep your skin moisturized with a lotion or oil. Moisturized skin remains supple. When choosing a lotion or oil avoid any that contain perfumes and dyes because they can irritate the skin.
Stay hydrated. Dehydration can undermine blood circulation and lead to dry, irritated skin.
Clean cuts and blisters
If you do get a cut or blister, clean it and treat it immediately. This will encourage healing. Cuts and blisters left untreated can lead to infection and, in the very worst cases, amputation.
Allergic reactions like hives or itchiness are most commonly caused by foods, bug bites, or medicines. Respond to these reactions immediately with an antihistamine pill or cream. The most serious allergic reactions can cause anaphylaxis shock and be life-threatening. If you find that you’re breathing becomes constricted while having an allergic reaction, immediately seek medical help.
Manage blood glucose levels
For long-term skin health, actively manage your blood glucose levels. Chronically elevated glucose levels can damage blood vessels and nerves over time weakening the skin. More immediately, elevated blood glucose levels can dry the skin and undermine the body’s ability to fight off infection by disrupting blood circulation.
Itching can point to serious illness
An itch can point to serious skin conditions, like eczema (dermatitis) and psoriasis. It can also be an indication of a serious underlying illness. These include “liver disease, kidney failure, iron deficiency anemia, thyroid problems and certain cancers, including multiple myeloma and lymphoma.”5
Talk with your doctor if you have a skin condition or itching that persists. Seeking medical help is especially important if you develop a cut or irritation that won’t heal or find that your itchiness is causing you to have sleep problems and feel anxious.
For your overall skin health and comfort, a little daily care and attention will go a long way toward keeping the occasional itch from developing into something much more serious. Remember to do the basics: keep your skin clean and dry, moisturize, stay hydrated, and if you do end up with a cut or blister take care of it immediately.
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