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Itching to Learn More About Diabetes?


By Kathy Hubbard

Today we’re going to talk about two things. One is a symptom that one wouldn’t necessarily associate with diabetes, and the other is how you can find out all there is to know about this disease at an upcoming event. Let’s start with Diabetes Day and who should attend. That’s simple: everyone who has an interest in the subject whether you have the disease or not.
Diabetes Day is a free event sponsored by Bonner General Health on Monday, November 5 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Health Services Building’s Monarch Room (1st floor at 423 N. Third, aka the “new” building).
“Registered dietitians, certified diabetes educators, RNs, pharmacists, drug reps, insulin pump reps will all be there to display products, give advice and answer questions,” Mary Kaiser, BGH registered dietician said. “We will have blood sugar testing, A1C testing, foot exams, mouth and gum exams, visual acuity tests, urine tests for protein/sugar, blood pressure, Ask the Pharmacist sessions, blood sugar meter checks, information from Panhandle Health and more!”
Kaiser said that the offered exams are a reminder that people with diabetes should have specific tests every year, but they are not intended to replace those exams. For example, the visual acuity test reminds us to have a yearly dilated eye exam to screen for diabetic retinopathy. She also said that there will be information available on diabetes management, health insurance benefits and smoking cessation.
“The event is open to the public and those with or without diabetes is invited. No need to respond to anyone just show up!” Kaiser said. “Remember it’s free! We have a great door prize! And everyone should stop by.”
According to Audrey Buck RD CDE, diabetes educator at Bonner General, many people with diabetes or prediabetes don’t have symptoms, but an elevated blood sugar may be evident on a yearly lab test. The goal of diabetes education is to achieve blood sugars as close to normal as possible to prevent complications from elevated blood sugars over a long period of time.
The most common warning signs of diabetes are increased thirst, increased hunger (even after eating), dry mouth, frequent urination or urine infections, unexplained weight loss, blurred vision, fatigue and headaches. But, what about itching? Is that a common symptom?
An interesting article in Medical News Today ascertains that people with diabetes experience skin itching at higher rates than those without the condition.
“A study of nearly 2,700 people with diabetes and 499 without diabetes found that itching was a common diabetes symptom. An estimated 11.3 percent of those with diabetes reported skin itching versus 2.9 percent of people without diabetes,” the article written by Rachel Nall, RN, BSN, CCRN said.
Nall says that itching skin should not be ignored, particularly by people with diabetes. Why? Because the disease lowers one’s ability to ward off infection. The good news? There are treatments available to raise the comfort level and avoid complications.
“Often, the cause of diabetes-related itching is diabetic polyneuropathy or peripheral neuropathy. This condition occurs when high blood glucose levels damage nerve fibers, particularly those in the feet and hands,” Nall said.
“Before the nerve damage occurs, the body experiences high levels of cytokines. These are inflammatory substances that can lead to a person’s skin itching,” she said.
Itching should never be ignored. It might be an indicator that a person is at risk for nerve damage, it can be associated with disorders that include kidney or liver failure, or it can be a reaction to new medication. It can also be that it’s something like athlete’s foot, eczema, hidradenitis suppurativa (blocked hair follicles and a great subject for another day), psoriasis or sunburn. It might be something as simple as the person using skin products that are irritating to the skin or just our dry, cold winters.
“A person with diabetes can take several steps to maintain healthy skin and prevent itching,” Nall said. “These include managing diabetes carefully and preventing blood sugar levels from becoming too high.”
If the itching persists for more than a couple of weeks a trip to the medico is in order. If you want more information about itching or any of the other symptoms I’ve mentioned, be sure to attend Diabetes Day next Monday.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at kathyleehubbard@yahoo.com.

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