Diabetes and Itchy Feet: Making the Connection
Chronic itchy feet are often, but not always, related to diabetes. The best way to make the connection is to discuss your concerns with a doctor. Diabetics must play an active role in their treatment to manage the condition and remain healthy.
Skin Complications and Diabetes
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes affect the skin in a variety of ways. Too much glucose in the blood slows down circulation and often results in nerve damage when left unattended. Diabetics are at a much higher risk of developing peripheral artery disease, a condition in which the arteries that regulate blood flow become constricted or blocked with plaque buildup. This lack of blood flow usually manifests in a person's lower legs and feet.
Eruptive xanthomatosis is another condition commonly experienced by individuals with diabetes, particularly men under 40 with uncontrolled type 1 diabetes. This complication often causes itchy feet, as well as itchy hands, arms, legs and buttocks. Many diabetics also struggle with extremely dry skin, especially in the lower extremities, due to nerve damage and/or inadequate blood circulation.
Related Side Effects and Symptoms
Itchy feet are not always a sign of diabetes, and it isn't always easy to make a connection between the two. Individuals who have eruptive xanthomatosis are typically the easiest to diagnose because of the firm, yellowish bumps that form on the skin. The bumps are usually surrounded by a red ring, and they generally itch. Eruptive xanthomatosis is often accompanied by high cholesterol levels and excess fat in the blood.
Dry skin, on the other hand, is extremely common in diabetics and non-diabetics alike. In addition to dry, itchy skin, many diabetics also suffer from cracked skin, rough or flaky patches, or slow-healing cuts or abrasions. Bunions, corns, warts and fungal infections often appear as well. Some diabetics experience foot and leg pain, malformations of the foot or toes, and the risk of gangrene along with the itchiness.
Treatment and Prevention
The best way to prevent and treat itchy feet that are a result of diabetes is to consistently maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Itchy feet and rashes caused by eruptive xanthomatosis typically resolve when the body's glucose levels return to normal. Wash your feet well each day using a mild soap and warm water, and apply petroleum jelly or an unscented lotion to prevent dryness. In some cases, a prescription-strength medication may be needed to help control the itching.
Dry, itchy feet are often the first sign of diabetes, but they can also indicate a variety of other conditions, including psoriasis, scabies and allergic reactions. It's important to make the connection between itchy feet and diabetes early so that proper treatment can be administered.