Last updated: July 2, 2021
Richard Honaker M.D.
Primary Care Physician
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There are a lot of concerns from women about diabetes. Are the signs and symptoms of diabetes different in women? What major health issues affect women with diabetes more than men? These questions answered and diabetes signs and symptoms explore in the following.
How Does Diabetes Happen?
Diabetes is an energy releasing affliction that happens when your glucose (more commonly known as blood sugar) is excessive. An excess blood sugar level is called hyperglycemia. Your body uses glucose for energy and the pancreas manufactures a hormone called insulin. Insulin is the one responsible in transforming the glucose from your food intake into energy. If not enough insulin, or no insulin at all, is manufactured, glucose won’t be able to reach your cells to be utilized as energy. The resulting condition is diabetes.
The Types of Diabetes
There are two principal types of diabetes, and women are susceptible to both.
- Type 1 Diabetes. This type used to be called juvenile diabetes. It is an autoimmune condition wherein the body isn’t able to manufacture insulin due to the body’s immune system that attacks insulin-manufacturing cells from the pancreas. These insulin-manufacturing cells are called beta cells.
- Type 2 Diabetes. This type of diabetes is a condition wherein cells are not able to use glucose expeditiously for energy. This happens when glucose became too excessive with time and the cells become unresponsive to insulin.
What is Pre-Diabetes?
It is a condition that usually occurs before type 2 diabetes, when your glucose is greater than the usual but not that high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. Most of the time pre-diabetes doesn’t have signs and symptoms. That’s why there are no warning signs. It can be confirmed by getting a blood test. In five years’ time, this condition could result to type 2 diabetes if there are no changes in your diet and lifestyle.
Diabetes Signs and Symptoms Unique to Women
Plenty of type 1 and type 2 diabetes signs and symptoms found in women are pretty much the same as those found in men, but there are some signs and complications that are unique to women.
- Itching and pain in your vagina along with vaginal and oral yeast infections. A profusion of the Candida albicans fungus can trigger both vaginal and oral yeast infections. Signs and symptoms of vaginal yeast infections consist of vaginal itching and pain, vaginal discharge, and aching sexual penetration. Signs and symptoms of oral yeast infections consist of white spots, redness and soreness, having difficulty eating or swallowing, and enlarged and distended red gums or the inside of your cheeks.
- Sexual function issues like pain, vaginal dryness, or diminished libido. Women who have diabetes could experience lower libido, issues of blood flow to their genital area that can diminish sexual reaction and orgasm, and even nerve damage called diabetic neuropathy that can lead to vaginal dryness and reduced sensation.
- PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome. This is a prevalent source of female infertility and insulin resistance. It could trigger signs and symptoms like inconsistent periods, acne, dwindling scalp hair, and a surplus of hair growth on the face and body. Excessive insulin levels also escalate your risk of getting diabetes, and around 50% of women who have PCOS contract diabetes.
- UTIs or urinary tract infections. These infections happen when bacteria get into anywhere in the urinary tract like the urethra, ureters, kidneys, and bladder. These are much more prevalent in women than in men and basically happens more frequent with diabetes since the presence of sugar in the urine serves as a seedbed for bacterial growth.
Gestational Diabetes Linked To Depression, Says Researchers
Diabetes Signs and Symptoms that are Similar for Both Men and Women:
- Immoderate thirstiness and appetite
- Numerous and successive urination
- Decrease or increase in weight
- Obscure and unfocused eyesight
- Lengthy restoration and recovery from wounds
- Skin diseases
- Wrinkled parts of the body become darker than the usual
- Whiffs of fruity, sweet, or acetone on your breath
- Stinging or desensitizing sensations in your hands or feet
Some problems that could arise from both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are similar like skin, eye, circulation, hyperglycemia, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), ketoacidosis, and amputation.
Diabetes Affecting Women Differently than Men
Men, women and children have chances of getting diabetes, but this condition can pose some issues that are unique to women. According to a 2007 study between the years 1971 and 2000, mortality rates for men with diabetes decreased, but mortality rates for women did not.
Women in general live longer than men because of their lower risk of heart disease as compared to men, but when they do develop diabetes their risk for heart ailments soars and as a result hear attacks are more fatal for women than for men. The following shows other instances of how diabetes affects women separately:
Kidney disease is one other problem that results from both type 1 and type 2 diabetes and affects women more dynamically, forcibly, and strenuously than men. Depression is also doubly more prevalent in women who have diabetes than in diabetic men.
Women who have diabetes are also more susceptible to deficient blood sugar control that could lead to hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, obesity, high blood pressure, and elevated levels of cholesterol than men who have diabetes.
Here are some of the reasons why both type 1 and type 2 diabetes affect women more fiercely than men:
- The HDL or good cholesterol level of women who have diabetes drop significantly, which yields to higher risk of heart disease.
- Estrogen is lesser in women with diabetes and less estrogen is linked with kidney disease.
- Women who have diabetes possibly get less beneficial health care, specifically for heart disease and heart disease risk factors. This can be seen much more in remote areas where access to health care is scarce.
- Women who have diabetes usually have PCOS as well, and PCOS is also a risk factor for diabetes and could trigger fertility issues and eventually permanent infertility.
Does Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes Affect Pregnancy?
It shouldn’t affect anyone’s pregnancy as long as it’s managed appropriately. For those who are planning to get pregnant, consult your doctor so your blood sugar level is properly managed before you become pregnant. Get a grasp of how to keep track and manage your diabetes and blood sugar levels while pregnant.
If your glucose level is high during pregnancy, both the baby and mother have risks and could result to:
- Giving birth prematurely
- Laborious delivery or C-section
- Stillbirth or spontaneous abortion
- Preeclampsia (which is having high blood pressure and having the presence of protein in your urine)
- Birth deformities
- Having an oversized baby
- Low blood sugar levels in your newborn
- Skin and eyes of the newborn appears to be yellow
- Breathing difficulties in the newborn
- The diabetic eye problems and kidney problems of the mother gets worse
- Urinary or bladder infections happen more frequently
What is Gestational Diabetes?
It’s the term used when diabetes happens in women while being pregnant. The diagnosis usually occurs between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy. Just like in type 1 and type 2 diabetes, glucose levels are also excessive. This happens because pregnant women need more glucose to nourish the developing baby.
As a result, your body will need more insulin and in some cases, the bodies of other women don’t manufacture sufficient insulin to satisfy the need. As a result, glucose levels escalate and lead to gestational diabetes.
Luckily, for most women, gestational diabetes just disappears after the baby is born. But, having gestational diabetes makes women more at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Here are some of the risk factors for gestational diabetes:
- Obesity or being overweight
- Family history of diabetes
- Ethnicity (risks are higher for Hispanics, African Americans, Native Americans, Alaskan Natives, Asian Americans, or Pacific Islanders)
- Age beyond 25
- Previous gestational diabetes, miscarriage or stillbirth, having a baby that weighs over 9 pounds
- PCOS or other health conditions that are linked with insulin issues
- Issues with insulin or glucose like insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, or pre-diabetes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Heart ailments
What to Do if You Believe You Have Pre-Diabetes, Diabetes, or Gestational Diabetes
If you’ve noticed any of signs and symptoms diabetes, consult your doctor. If diabetes remains untreated, severe complications could arise like heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, blindness, kidney disease, and even nerve damage.
Once you are diagnosed with diabetes that can be determined through the checking of your blood sugar levels, you will be guided on a plan to keep it normal. If your diabetes is a mild one, the doctor will most likely suggest a diet plan accompanied by exercising and weight loss routines. Medications may also be prescribed to aid in the reduction of your blood glucose levels. For some women, insulin may be needed.
Signs and Symptoms of Gestational Diabetes
It usually has no signs and symptoms, but you may experience some of these:
- Presence of sugar in your urine
- Intensified thirst
- Recurrent urination
- Obscured and unfocused eyesight
- Weight loss
- More infections in your vagina, bladder, and skin
Do you have diabetes, or concerned about pre-diabetes? Our team of expert North American doctors and specialists are here to help. You can talk to a doctor for free today and get the answers you need and deserve.
Submitted by Dr. Richard Honaker: http://www.independentmedicalexaminer.com/IME-Directory/Virginia/Dr-Richard-A-Honaker-MD.asp
Disclaimer: This article provides general information and is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease or medical condition. If you require specific advice, please consult one of our medical professionals through the app. However, in case of an emergency, please call 911.
About Richard Honaker M.D.
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