We all know someone who has diabetes. The surprising thing is that we may all know someone that is undiagnosed. Of the 30 million Americans that have diabetes, over 7 million of those were undiagnosed. Diabetes can affect both men and women at an alarming rate, but there are some differences that occur when a woman is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. If you have signs and symptoms of this disease, or have recently been diagnosed, here are some things to know about having diabetes as a woman.
One of the more unique things about diabetes and pregnancy is that even if you don’t have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you can be diagnosed with gestational diabetes. This is when you have a spike in your blood sugar only while pregnant, which goes away after you deliver your baby. However, while you are pregnant, you should take gestational diabetes just as seriously as any other form of diabetes, monitoring your blood sugar and watching your diet. Gestational diabetes typically result in larger weight babies a birth. Some risk factors for gestational diabetes include being older when you become pregnant, having a family history of diabetes, being overweight, and having high blood pressure or high cholesterol. Make sure you have your blood glucose monitored by a doctor if you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes.
Another way diabetes is different for women is that it can affect your sex life if you don’t
manage the disease it properly. You may notice changes in your sexual function from the nerve damage caused by diabetes. When not treated properly, diabetes can ultimately lead to tingling and loss of feeling in various body parts, including your vaginal area. You may also have an increased amount of dryness in your vagina, which can also negatively impact your sex life. Additionally, common signs and symptoms for women with diabetes are increased
infections like yeast infections, as well as urinary tract infections.
Higher Risk for PCOS
Diabetes can also affect women by creating a higher risk for conditions like PCOS. This
stands for polycystic ovarian syndrome and is caused by irregular hormonal levels
brought on by insulin resistance. As you know, insulin resistance can also lead to
diabetes, which is why these two are linked so closely. PCOS can lead to infertility,
weight gain, depression, and the symptoms of diabetes as well.
As a woman with diabetes, you also have all the same symptoms and dangers as men
with this disease. You need to be concerned about foot problems, eye diseases like
diabetic retinopathy, fatigue, weight fluctuations, dizziness, and nerve damage. It is
important that you get treatment as soon as you are diagnosed with diabetes and that
you listen to your doctor’s orders as far as treatments and lifestyle changes go. Whether
you change your diet or have to take medications, it can help you deal with diabetes
and avoid all the potential complications at the same time.
Risk Factors of Diabetes for Women
Many of the risk factors of getting diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, are similar to men.
However, there are some instances where as a woman, you might have some different
risk factors. By knowing these risks, you have a good chance at avoiding diabetes,
particularly with type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is different than type 2 diabetes, therefore its risk factors and complications also tend to be different. Type 1 diabetics are most often diagnosed as a child and were probably born with the disease. This type of diabetes occurs when your pancreas doesn’t create enough insulin in your body. With this type of diabetes, you might have a family history of the disease, infections of your pancreas at a young age, or possibly other diseases of your pancreas that increased your risk.
Type 2 Diabetes
The next type of diabetes, which is the most common form, is type 2 diabetes. With type
2 diabetes, you have too much sugar in your blood. It is sometimes called insulin
resistance. There is a higher risk if diabetes runs in your family, if you are born insulin resistant, or you are overweight. Other risk factors for this form of diabetes include being overweight, following a poor diet, not exercising enough, or having an ethnic background. It does tend to be more common with women who are African American, Hispanic, or Native American, though anyone can get it. If you have PCOS or are over 45 years old, you are also at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes.
Early Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes
Weight changes – You may notice that your weight fluctuates rapidly without you
making any changes, either with weight loss or weight gain.
Eye health issues – Diabetes is linked with eye changes due to the condition, so if you
have signs of glaucoma, cataracts, or blurry vision, you might want to talk to your physician.
Fatigue – Increased fatigue and sluggishness is very common among women and men
with diabetes. If you are getting plenty of sleep, but the fatigue never seems to go away,
it is time to talk to a doctor.
Increased thirst – Dry mouth and increased thirst and hunger is also a common early
symptom for diabetes.
Dizziness – People with type 2 diabetes who don’t treat it properly often experience
severe sugar crashes from the high blood sugar levels, which can cause dizziness and
Increased Vaginal infections - Women who are getting repeated yeast infections or vaginal infections like thrush, often talk to their doctor, should speak to their physician. Infections like these typically cause vaginal discharge, odor, itching, and sometimes pain during intercourse, so if you have these symptoms, talk to your doctor.
Stephanie Young Moss, Pharm. D.
Wife, Mom Pharmacist