Diabetes is a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar due to problems processing or producing insulin. Between 1971 and 2000, the death rate for men with diabetes fell, according to a study in Annals of Internal Medicine. This decrease reflects advances in diabetes treatment. But the study also indicates the death rate of women with diabetes didn’t improve. In addition, the difference in death rates between men and women who had diabetes and those who didn’t more than doubled. The findings emphasize how diabetes affects women and men differently. The reasons included the following:
- Women often receive less aggressive treatment for cardiovascular risk factors and conditions related to diabetes.
- Some of the complications of diabetes in women are more difficult to diagnose.
- Women often have different kinds of heart disease than men.
- Hormones and inflammation act differently in women.
Let’s take a closer look at how diabetes affects women as well as treatment options you can discuss with your doctor.
Symptoms of Diabetes in Women
Women with diabetes may experience many of the same symptoms as men. However, some symptoms are unique to women. Understanding more about these symptoms will help you identify diabetes and get treatment early. Symptoms unique to women include:
- Vaginal and oral yeast infections and vaginal thrush.
- Urinary Infections – Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common in women with diabetes mostly due to the immune system being compromised because of hyperglycemia.
- Female sexual dysfunction – Diabetic neuropathy occurs when high blood glucose damages nerve fibers. This can trigger tingling and loss of feeling in different parts of the body. This condition may also affect sensation in the vaginal area and lower a woman’s sex drive.
- Polycystic ovary syndrome – This disorder occurs when a woman produces a higher number of male hormones is predisposed to getting PCOS.
Pregnancy and Diabetes
Women with diabetes wonder if pregnancy is safe. The good news is that you can have a healthy pregnancy after being diagnosed with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. But it’s important to manage your condition before and during pregnancy to avoid complications. If you’re planning to get pregnant, your best bet is to get your blood glucose levels as close to your target range as possible before you get pregnant. Your target ranges when pregnant may be different from the ranges when you aren’t pregnant. If you have diabetes and pregnant or hoping to become pregnant, talk to your HealthLynked provider about the best ways to manage your and your baby’s health. Your blood glucose levels and general health need to be tracked before and during your pregnancy.
Gestational diabetes is specific to pregnant women and different from type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and it occurs in approximately 9.2% of pregnancies. The hormones of pregnancy interfere with the way insulin works. This causes the body to make more of it. But for some women, this still isn’t enough insulin, and they develop gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes often develops later in pregnancy, and in most women, goes away after pregnancy. If you’ve had gestational diabetes, your risk for type 2 diabetes increases. Your doctor may recommend testing for diabetes and prediabetes every few years.
At all stages of life, women’s bodies present obstacles for managing diabetes and blood sugar. But you can take steps to prevent or delay diabetes, avoid complications, and manage symptoms.
There are medications you can take to manage symptoms and complications of diabetes. Many new classes of medications for diabetes are available, but the most common starting medications include insulin therapy for all people with type 1 diabetes and metformin, which reduces blood sugar.
Lifestyle changes can also help manage diabetes. This includes exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking cigarettes, eating a diet focused on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and monitoring your blood sugar.
There are a variety of alternative remedies to try to manage symptoms as well. Taking supplements like chromium or magnesium, eating more broccoli, buckwheat, sage, peas, and fenugreek seeds, and taking plant supplements can help.
Remember to consult your HealthLynked provider before trying any new treatments. Even if they’re natural, they can interfere with current treatments or medications.