Diabetes is a medical condition that is rapidly climbing towards worldwide epidemic status. However, while the condition equally affects both men and women, the differences in physiological and chemical makeup between the two mean that it affects both genders differently. Here is a look at how female diabetes differs from male diabetes, and its effects on the female population:
In addition to common definitive symptoms, the disease might further present itself via the following signs in women:
- Frequent Vaginal And Oral Yeast Infections are triggered by elevated blood glucose levels, which stimulate the growth of the yeast-causing fungus, Candida albicans inside the mouth or vagina.
- Frequent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) might result from poor blood circulation due to high blood sugar, hence disabling the white blood cells from traveling to and combating infection-causing bacteria.
- Poly-cystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a common diabetes culprit, as it can also cause insulin resistance, resulting in elevated blood sugar levels.
- Sexual Dysfunction and Vaginal Dryness might be a result of diabetic neuropathy, i.e. nerve damage and numbness, or reduced blood flow to the genital region due to high blood glucose.
Women who already suffer from either type 1 or type 2 diabetes must take certain measures to avoid complications and ensure a healthy pregnancy. They should work with their doctors in lowering their blood glucose as close as possible to the normal range well before pregnancy.
Moreover, they should track their overall health before and during pregnancy, while continuing to manage these reduced levels, as excess blood glucose can expose the baby to various cognitive (learning) impairments, developmental delays, high blood pressure, jaundice and breathing difficulties.
Although elevated hormone levels during pregnancy stimulate excess insulin production to accommodate the increased glucose requirement, in some cases, the extra insulin is insufficient, resulting in high blood glucose. This is a temporary condition; usually appearing between the 24th-28th week of pregnancy and disappearing soon after childbirth.
However, high blood glucose early on in pregnancy often indicates a pre-existing case. Moreover, since women with the condition have a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on, regular diabetes and prediabetes testing every 2 years post-pregnancy is recommended.
The condition does not present any individual symptoms, However, experiencing increased thirst, infections, frequent urination, fatigue, nausea, blurred vision, and unexplained weight loss might indicate gestational diabetes, and should be reported to the doctor immediately for effective treatment and control.
Diabetes And Menopause:
It affects menopausal and pre-menopausal women in the following ways:
- Reduced levels of estrogen and other hormones not only alter the body’s response to insulin, resulting in sudden spikes in blood sugar levels but can also lead to increased urinary tract and vaginal infections.
- Insomnia and irregular sleep patterns that are common during menopause can make blood sugar management difficult.
- Women who experience weight gain during menopause might require higher doses of insulin or change their oral medications.
In addition to eye and nerve damage, and an increase in fungal and bacterial infections, diabetes can present various other physical health complications for women:
- While women are more likely to succumb to depression than men, the risk is further multiplied in diabetic women.
- Women with diabetes are twice as likely to develop an eating disorder as compared to those without.
- It also reduces estrogen levels in the body, resulting in increased chances of developing kidney disease.
- While cardiovascular conditions generally affect more men than women, the statistics are reversed in diabetic women, who are more likely to experience possibly fatal heart attacks than both diabetic men and non-diabetic women due to a drop in HDL, or ‘good’ cholesterol levels.
- Certain birth control medication can elevate blood glucose levels, hence low-dose birth control pills must be prescribed for diabetic women.
- With advance age, it can cause loss of mobility with advancing age.
Diabetes and physical changes exclusive to women can have adverse effects on one another. However, most complications can be avoided through a healthy diet, regular exercise, regular monitoring of blood glucose, and taking insulin as and when instructed.
If left undiagnosed or untreated, diabetes can be life-threatening. If you notice any symptoms or have a family history of the condition, consult your endocrinologist (diabetic specialist) immediately.