Itchy skin is a very common symptom of diabetes, although it can sometimes be hard to pinpoint exactly what’s causing the itch. This is because diabetes can cause or aggravate common skin problems (such as chronic dry skin or fungal infections), as well as cause skin conditions specific to diabetes.
It’s a good idea to educate yourself on what’s happening and why, so you know when to get help.
Here are a few possible reasons why you might be feeling itchy:
Diabetics are more prone to dry skin, especially when your blood sugar is high, as the body loses moisture and the skin can get dry, cracked, and more susceptible to infection.
If your skin is dry, it’s more vulnerable to allergens and irritants that a healthy, robust skin barrier would protect against, and those can lead to itchiness too.
General dry skin can be managed with a careful skincare regime, such as the natural skincare regime we suggest for those with eczema or sensitive skin.
Because the skin barrier doesn’t always function so well in diabetics, they’re more prone to fungal infections such as thrush, jock itch, Athlete’s Foot, ringworm etc.
These can be managed with meticulous hygiene, antimicrobial skincare and antifungals from the doctor if necessary.
Bacterial infection, particularly staph (staphylococcus), can manifest in folliculitis, boils and styes.
Again, these need to be managed with careful hygiene, checking of any cuts, sores, blisters etc so that problems are identified before infection sets in, and with antibiotics from the doctor.
The poor circulation that diabetics are prone to can lead to localised itching, particularly in the lower legs. Controlling blood sugar levels is key to managing poor circulation.
Other skin issues
There are also various itchy skin conditions that only occur in diabetics:
- Necrobiosis lipoidica diabeticorum: a rare rash which usually occurs on the lower legs
- Allergic reaction to insulin: rashes, bumps, itchiness on injection sites
- Eruptive xanthomatosis: an itchy, painful condition characterised by bumps and pimples, caused by changes to blood vessels.
Check with your doctor about these or any other unusual skin problem. Most issues are about poor blood sugar control, so that is always the first line of management, but some infections, rashes, sores or blisters will require medical treatment as well.
For further details of diabetic skin problems, see our Symptoms Of Diabetic Skin Rash blog. We also have a blog about the Best Natural Treatments For Diabetic Rash for more information on practical strategies for keeping skin healthy and itch-free, including a guide to which Balmonds products work best for looking after diabetic skin!
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If you require medical advice we recommend you always contact your healthcare professional.
If you or someone you are caring for seems very unwell, is getting worse or you think there's something seriously wrong, call for emergency services straight away. For general medical advice, please contact your healthcare professional, this article does not contain or replace medical advice.
Do not delay getting help if you're worried. Trust your instincts.