Itchy skin may indicate diabetes, especially if other symptoms of diabetes are also there. Itchy skin occurs due to presence of high levels of blood sugar for a long duration. In some diabetic persons, itchy skin can occur due to diabetic complications such as kidney disease or nerve damage. Itching of legs, feet or ankles is common in diabetics, which results due to presence of high blood sugar levels for a prolonged duration. Itching of the skin may be relieved by various types of treatment and also by eliminating the underlying cause.

What Causes Itchy Feet in Diabetics?


Skin Conditions that Cause Itchy Feet in People Suffering from Diabetes

  • Bacterial Infections: Bacterial foot infection is characterized by boils filled with liquid. There is inflammation of the tissue that is hot, red, swollen and itchy. It is important to prevent infection of foot in diabetics because amputations may result due to unchecked infections.

  • Fungal Infections: Such as Athlete’s foot begins with a very itchy rash that is red in color and present in between the toes. A widespread infection can occur when germs enter the cracks present in the skin. A fungal infection that is common in diabetics is toenail fungus, which is characterized by yellowing and thickening of the nails resulting in crumbling of edges.

  • Yeast Infections: Yeast infections can result in itchy skin not only in the genital area but also on the feet, ears, hands and scalp.

  • Peripheral Neuropathy: It is among the common causes of itching in feet in diabetics. Other symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are numbness, tingling and pain in the limbs. Drugs such as oxycodone and morphine are prescribed to relieve the symptoms.

  • Liver Failure: Diseases of the liver with obstruction to the flow of bile may cause itchy feet diabetes. This may occur due to the fact that bile salts build up beneath the skin resulting in severe itching of the feet and hands, particularly at night, when blood sugar changes occur.


Mild Causes of Itching

Diabetes can result in itching due to various reasons such as dry skin, poor circulation or yeast infection. When blood sugar is high, body makes more urine to remove the excessive sugar, this makes the skin dry. People who have neuropathy also have dry skin as the glands in foot do not receive the message to produce sweat and oil and keep the skin supple and moist. Another cause of itchy feet is poor circulation in the legs. Certain home remedies including avoiding showers in areas with low humidity, applying moisturizers regularly, using gentle soap and eating foods which are good for health of the skin can provide relief.

How to Deal with the Itch

  1. Prevent your skin from drying: Use skin creams and moisturizers to keep skin healthy and moist. Avoid scented soaps and creams as they may cause a reaction worsening the itching. Moisturize two times a day and every time after you take a shower. Use mild and gentle soaps.

  2. Change your style of bathing: To prevent diabetesitchy feet, limit your baths to once in two days. Don’t use too hot water to bath as it irritates the skin. Instead use water which is at room temperature. Hot water causes dilatation of blood vessels; thereby, speeding up insulin metabolism, which may result in hypoglycemia. Moreover, diabetics with damage to nerves lose temperature and pain sensitivity and hence, may get burns with hot water.

  3. Reduce your stress level: Itching is aggravated by stress. To relieve stress, practice relaxation techniques such as: 

    Practice meditation. It involves making your mind empty and releasing all stress that is present inside you. Do meditation for 5-8 minutes every morning to stay calm and relaxed all through the day. Use the trigger word method. Choose a phrase, which calms you, such as all is well or it will be ok. When you begin to feel stressed, breathe deeply several times and repeat the phrase in your mind several times till you become calm.
  4. Utilize a cold compress to relieve itching: You can apply cold compress on the itchy skin to relieve the itching. Cold showers can also be taken to relieve itching. However, you should remember that diabetics should not shower too often, especially those who have poor blood glucose control.

  5. Apply oatmeal mixture on the affected area: Mix 1 cup of oatmeal (colloidal) to ¼ cup of water and form a thick paste. To relieve diabetes itchy feet, apply this paste to the area. Let it remain on the affected area for 16 minutes. It will provide temporary relief from the itching.

  6. Use mixture of baking soda and water to relieve the itching: Mix 1 cup of baking powder to ½ cup of water and form a smooth paste. Apply the paste to the affected area and let it remain there for 16 minutes. Rinse it with water.

  7. Use OTC (over-the-counter) creams to relieve the itch: Ointments or creams can relieve the itch. Remember that a blob the size of a penny is enough for an area two times the size of your hand (palm). While using an OTC, look for a cream containing any of these ingredients: Menthol, Camphor, Phenol, Benzocaine and Diphenhydramine.

  8. Apply an ointment containing steroid to the area: You can use an over-the-counter steroidal itching cream on the affected area. Hydrocortisone cream is usually the best cream and you can get it OTC in majority of the drug stores. Beclomethasone cream can also be used, which works in a manner similar to hydrocortisone. However, remember that steroidal creams should not be used for long duration without the recommendation of your physician.

  9. To prevent fungal infections, use antifungals: The immunity of diabetics is lowered; hence, they tend to get infections easily. One of such infections is fungal infection, which grows in between toes and can cause itchy feet. Hence, choose antifungal creams such as Miconazole, benzoic acid or ketoconazole.

  10. Discuss with your physician about other reasons of your itch: If your itching sensation is not relieved by the measures discussed above, or you suspect that some serious cause is behind your itch, then you should visit your physician. They would work further to determine the cause of your itching.


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