Diabetes and Itchy Skin – Skin Care for Diabetic Patients
Last updated on October 18th, 2017
Itching of the skin is also called pruritus in medical language. Itching is just a symptom of various skin problems, which need to be handled on time before they become chronic skin problem. Itching of the skin may also be a symptom of diseases of different organs(“Itchy Skin and Diabetes – Itchiness in Legs, Feet, Ankles,” n.d.). Diabetics are more prone to numerous skin problems. In fact, diabetics are also prone to early skin aging too. Thus the question arises, why the people suffering from diabetes are more susceptible to many skin problems.
The answer to this questions lies in blood vessels and nerves. In diabetics there is poor blood flow to some parts of the skin (high blood glucose damages large and small blood vessels), decreased in sensation (high sugar also damages nerves), and not all parts of the skin are equally moistened. Some parts may sweat more than normal, while other may remain dry. All these factors together decrease the local immunity of skin. Thus small cuts and wounds may remain unnoticed until there is a full-blown infection. Once infected, infection is harder to control in diabetics, due to poor local immunity and blood supply. Thus, itching of the skin is one of the earliest signs that should not be neglected(“Type 2 Diabetes and Skin Health,” n.d.).
When itching is more on legs and feet, it is often due to poor circulation. Itching in the scalp is more often due to disease of nerves. However, if itching in on other parts of the body that are mostly covered by clothing than it could be due to infection.
Fungal infections of skin
People suffering from diabetes are more prone to different fungal infection of the skin, itching is often the main symptom of various fungal infections. Which is both the result of falling local immunity caused due to disease of blood vessels, and high blood glucose levels, that are helpful for the growth of fungal infections(Casqueiro, Casqueiro, & Alves, 2012).
Most common fungal infections in diabetes are(“Diabetes and Your Skin,” n.d.);
- Near genitals and inner area of the thigh, characterized by reddening of the skin and severe itching.
- Contamination, inflammation, and itching of toes and skin in between them, also known as athlete’s foot.
- Ringworm infection, it is named so after the typically visible ring like itchy redness on different areas of skin, it may be isolated or at several locations. Commonly found at stomach, chest, scalp, feet, groins or even nails.
- Candidiasis or vaginal thrush is very common in women suffering from diabetes, it is often chronic, difficult to treat, an itchy condition that is characterized by white cottage cheese-like secretion(Malazy et al., 2007).
Bacterial infections of skin
People suffering from diabetes often get a bacterial infection, and due to lost sensitivity, they may not notice it at a nearly stage. These infections may come in the form of boils, increase infection of hair follicles, infection of eyelids and infection of nails(“General skin conditions | Diabetes New Zealand,” n.d.).
Diabetes and skin allergies
Diabetics are often on multi drug therapies. Especially in last decade or so, there have been lots of oral hypoglycemic agents discovered. However, some of the oral antidiabetic drugs may cause skin rashes and allergies(“Sulfonylurea Agents: ‘Oral Hypoglycemic Agents’ | Joslin Diabetes Center,” n.d.; Wiwanitkit, 2011).
Tips for skincare in diabetes
Itching, dryness, and cracks often lead to long term skin problems in people suffering from diabetes. Neuropathy only worsens the situation, resulting in a decrease of skin sensation. Proper skincare is the key to avoiding these problems. In diabetes, it is crucial to keep the skin moistened, and some of the lotions may be medicated, thus helpful in preventing some infections(“Good Skin Care and Diabetes | Joslin Diabetes Center,” n.d.). So here is our choice of some tips to avoid itchy skin, and keep your skin in optimal health(“6 Diabetes Skin Care Tips,” n.d., “Diabetes and Skin Care,” n.d., “General skin conditions | Diabetes New Zealand,” n.d.).
- Use mild soap and shampoo to wash your body. Dry thoroughly after a shower, and use moisturizer, except between the fingers of toes.
- Take a bath with lukewarm water, avoid taking a bath with very hot Also avoid keeping your hands and feet wet for a very extended period, as it makes your skin softer and more prone to piercing or various infections.
- Keep your blood glucose levels as close to normal as possible, as elevated blood glucose increases the risk of various infections.
- Inspect your body on a regular basis for redness, small cuts or wounds, pay special attention to the feet. People suffering from diabetes have decreased Thus regular visual inspection of skin has a major role.
- Get your blood checked for cholesterol level, and maintain the blood pressure. It is vital for the maintenance of the healthy blood vessels and capillaries, thus preventing skin problems in the long run.
- Wear loose fitting and preferably 100% cotton clothes and underwear. It helps in maintaining the healthy air flow, and thus itchy skin.
- In females it is important to keep the lower part of their breast dry, in hotter climates it is a good idea to use some talcum powder.
- Use gloves when washing utensils, or cleaning your home to prevent irritation and minor damages to the skin.
- Keep your home humidified in the dry times of the year.
- Drink lots of water and non-caffeinated drinks to keep your body and skin well hydrated.
- Immediately treat minor cuts and bruises, if needed use medicated ointments. It is particularly useful for early prevention of fungal and bacterial infection.
- Eat food that is rich in omega 3 fatty acid, and vitamin E. Include fish, soybeans, tofu and walnuts in your regular diet.
Finally, be prompt to seek medical help from the specialist. Most of the problems become chronic or difficult to treat because many diabetics just fail to consult the medical specialist on time. Remember that these very straightforward and basic skincare strategies can prevent most of the skin problems, and itching is just an early sign of most of them.
- 6 Diabetes Skin Care Tips. (n.d.). Retrieved June 4, 2017, from http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/diabetes-skin-care
- Casqueiro, J., Casqueiro, J., & Alves, C. (2012). Infections in patients with diabetes mellitus: A review of pathogenesis. Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism, 16(Suppl1), S27–S36. https://doi.org/10.4103/2230-8210.94253
- Diabetes and Skin Care. (n.d.). Retrieved June 4, 2017, from http://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-and-skin-care.html
- Diabetes and Your Skin. (n.d.). Retrieved June 4, 2017, from http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/guide/related-skin-conditions
- General skin conditions | Diabetes New Zealand. (n.d.). Retrieved June 4, 2017, from http://www.diabetes.org.nz/about_diabetes/complications_of_diabetes/general_skin_conditions
- Good Skin Care and Diabetes | Joslin Diabetes Center. (n.d.). Retrieved June 4, 2017, from http://www.joslin.org/info/good_skin_care_and_diabetes.html
- Itchy Skin and Diabetes – Itchiness in Legs, Feet, Ankles. (n.d.). Retrieved June 4, 2017, from http://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-complications/itchy-skin-and-diabetes.html
- Malazy, O. T., Shariat, M., Heshmat, R., Majlesi, F., Alimohammadian, M., Tabari, N. K., & Larijani, B. (2007). Vulvovaginal candidiasis and its related factors in diabetic women. Taiwanese Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, 46(4), 399–404.
- Sulfonylurea Agents: “Oral Hypoglycemic Agents” | Joslin Diabetes Center. (n.d.). Retrieved June 4, 2017, from http://www.joslin.org/info/sulfonylurea_agents_oral_hypoglycemic_agents.html
- Type 2 Diabetes and Skin Health. (n.d.). Retrieved June 4, 2017, from http://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/skin-problems#overview1
- Wiwanitkit, V. (2011). Metformin allergy. Indian Journal of Pharmacology, 43(2), 216–217. https://doi.org/10.4103/0253-7613.77379