Can Itching Be a Symptom of Diabetes?

The Link Between Itching and Diabetes

Itching is a common symptom of diabetes, a chronic condition in which your blood sugar is too high. Itching from diabetes can be caused by dry skin, poor circulation, or certain infections. It can also be annoying enough to interfere with your daily life.

Here's what to know about itching and diabetes, how you can manage it, and when to see a healthcare provider to get relief.

Man itching lower leg

Tharakorn / Getty Images

What Is Itching?

Itchy skin that creates an almost irresistible impulse to scratch is very common. The medical name for itching is pruritus. The sensation is caused by either irritated nerve cells called C fibers or skin cells themselves. When itching is a symptom of diabetes, it's due to high blood sugar, which can cause:

  • Dry skin
  • Poor circulation
  • Certain infections, such as vaginal yeast infections

Is Itching a Symptom of Diabetes?

Itching can be a symptom of diabetes or prediabetes, which is when your blood sugar is nearing a diabetic level. High blood sugar can make you itch in several ways.

Dry Skin

When you have too much sugar, or glucose, in your bloodstream, your body will try to get rid of it by pulling fluid from the cells to make more urine, so that you release the sugar through your urine. This can make your skin dry, and dehydrated skin can be itchy.

High blood sugar can also damage the skin barrier (how the skin protects the underlying tissues), which makes you more prone to react to irritants by itching, or even lead to infection. High glucose levels in the blood can also trigger an immune system reaction that releases cytokines (inflammatory agents) that cause itching.

Poor Circulation

Diabetes can affect your circulation by damaging the lining of the blood vessels so they deliver blood and nutrients less efficiently. That can lead to diabetic neuropathy, nerve damage that's common among people with diabetes.

The farthest body part from your heart—your legs—are most vulnerable to decreased circulation. People with diabetic neuropathy often itch, particularly in the lower legs.

Yeast Infection

Diabetes can make people more vulnerable to yeast infections. High glucose levels in the blood and urine can lead to an overgrowth of yeast in the vagina. Vaginal itching from a vaginal yeast infection can be intense.

Treatment and Management of Diabetic Itching

Keeping your blood sugar controlled with a healthy lifestyle and taking medications your provider has prescribed can help not only with itching but also with your general health. Itching can also be managed by following these tips:

  • Keep your skin well-moisturized by using a cream moisturizer rather than a lotion.
  • Keep your skin clean and dry it promptly.
  • Shower or bathe in warm, not hot, water.
  • Consider using a humidifier at home during cold weather.
  • Try over-the-counter (OTC) anti-itch creams containing cortisone.
  • Exercise can help your circulation, which may help prevent neuropathy.

When to See Your Healthcare Provider

Itchy skin is an annoyance, but if you have diabetes, it may be a sign that you have or are at risk for nerve damage. It can also signal prediabetes, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. If you have tingling or numbness as well as itchy feet, see your healthcare provider or your diabetes team.

If your skin is dry enough to be cracking and flaking, your healthcare provider can recommend a prescription or OTC medication to help. It's important to go to all follow-up appointments so that your healthcare provider can monitor your blood sugar and general health, as well as address the symptom of itching.


Itching is a common symptom of diabetes. It can be due to dry skin, poor circulation that leads to diabetic neuropathy, or yeast infections. Keeping your skin well-moisturized and hydrated can help with the itch, and anti-itch creams, often containing cortisone, are available over the counter.

Itching may not seem serious, but see your healthcare provider if you have high blood sugar and your feet itch, which could be a sign of nerve damage. If your skin is dry and cracking, and the itching interrupts your sleep or daily activities, your healthcare provider can recommend stronger prescription anti-itch creams.

A Word From Verywell

Itching is no fun, and scratching only makes it worse. Not only can it damage your skin, but you're entering the dreaded itch-scratch cycle, in which scratching might feel good but makes the itching worse, so you scratch more.

If you have high blood sugar, you are at risk of developing itchy skin. Itching can be intense and even make it hard to get a good night's sleep. With good skin care, paying attention to your feet, and getting help from your healthcare provider as needed, you may be able to alleviate the worst of it and get on with your life.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is itching a sign of type 2 diabetes?

    Itching can be a sign of type 2 diabetes caused by high blood sugar. One study found that over one-third of people with type 2 diabetes itched enough that it affected their quality of life.

  • Can diabetes cause vaginal itching?

    People who have diabetes are more likely to have vaginal itching because they are at higher risk for yeast infections. Yeast infections commonly cause vaginal itching.

  • What does diabetes itching feel like?

    If you have diabetes, itching can be intense. It's an irritating feeling that makes it hard not to scratch, but scratching can make the itch worse. You can itch anywhere, but if you have nerve damage (neuropathy) associated with diabetes, your lower legs may itch.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Nancy LeBrun
In addition to her extensive health and wellness writing, Nancy has written about many general interest topics for publications as diverse as Newsweek, Teen Vogue,, and Craftsmanship Quarterly. She has authored a book about documentary filmmaking, a screenplay about a lost civil rights hero, and ghostwritten several memoirs.