Type 2 diabetes: Pruritus is a sign of high blood sugar – what is it?

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition which can be brought under control if a person commits to a healthier lifestyle. One of the primary threats posed by type 2 diabetes is high blood sugar levels. When a person experiences a number of unusual signs and symptoms ensue. Pruritus is a condition which occurs due to high blood sugar. What is pruritus?


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What is pruritus?

The Cleveland Clinic said: “Pruritus or itch is defined as an unpleasant sensation of the skin that provokes the urge to scratch.

“It is a characteristic feature of many skin diseases and an unusual sign of some systematic diseases.

“Pruritus may be localised or generalised and can occur as an acute or chronic condition.

“Itching lasting more than six weeks is a term chronic pruritus.

“Itching can be intractable and incapacitating, as well as a diagnostic and therapeutic challenge.”

Pruritus in type 2 diabetes

Itching is often a symptom of a diabetic polyneuropathy which is a condition that develops when diabetes leads to nerve damage.

Certain skin conditions that develop as a result of diabetes may also cause itchy skin.

A person with diabetes should not ignore itchy skin.

Dry, irritated or itchy skin is more likely to become infected and people with diabetes may not be able to fight off infections as successfully as those who do not have the condition.

There are a number of reasons why a person with diabetes might experience more frequent itching than others.

Sometimes, itching can result from damaged nerve fibres in the outer layers of the skin.

Often, the cause of diabetes-related itching is diabetic polyneuropathy.

These are complications of diabetes that develop when high blood glucose levels cause damage to the nerve fibres, particularly the hands or feet.

Before nerve damage starts to occur for people with diabetes, high levels of cytokines circulate the body.

These are inflammatory substances which cause the itching.


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In a study with the British Journal of diabetes, pruritus and diabetes was investigated.

The study noted: “Chronic pruritus is a common symptom of a range of skin and systemic diseases.

“Studies looking at the prevalence of pruritus are limited.

“One study has shown 8 percent prevalence in an adult population in Norway.

“A cross-sectional study in Germany showed a high prevalence of 36.2 percent of pruritus attending to see dermatologists over one week.

“The majority of these patients (87.6 percent) had chronic pruritus.

“Pruritus is often believed to be a common manifestation of diabetes.

“It has also been reported to be secondary to diabetic neuropathy, metabolic derangements associated with renal failure, or autonomic dysfunction resulting in anhidrosis.”

If you have been experiencing itchy skin, it’s important to speak with your GP about the possible cause. 

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