Diabetes often strikes women differently due to a number of reasons, primary among them being the hormonal variations between men and women. Inflammation also acts differently in women.
Considering that type 2 diabetes is a disease of chronic low-grade inflammation, it follows that warning signs, as well as disease progression in women, are different significantly, if not vastly.
Diabetes is one of the biggest lifestyle diseases we see today. In just 25 years, the global incidence of diabetes has doubled, according to the World Health Organization. More than 15 million women are living with type 2 diabetes in the United States alone and another 40 million are prediabetic, according to CDC (Center for Disease Control) statistics of 2017.
Symptoms of Diabetes in Women
While many signs and symptoms of diabetes are common in men and women, women experience certain unique symptoms. These are:
Vaginal and Oral Infections
Overgrowth of a yeast called Candida albicans causes vaginal and oral yeast infections, called “thrush.” High levels of glucose in the blood are favorable for the growth of this yeast. Vaginal infections are accompanied by symptoms like soreness, itching, vaginal discharge and pain during sex. When the infection is oral, a cottage cheese-like coating is seen on the tongue and the inside of the mouth.
Urinary Tract Infections
The risk of UTIs is higher in women with diabetes. UTIs occur when bacteria gain access to the urinary tract, where they colonize and cause infection. Signs and symptoms include painful urination, burning sensation while urination, fever and cloudy (sometimes bloody) urine. High blood glucose levels, poor circulation and the inability of immune cells to effectively fight bacteria are all causes of UTIs.
Poor Sexual Health
High levels of blood sugar often cause a condition called diabetic neuropathy. This is a condition in which nerves lose their ability to effectively transmit signals between the organs and brain. This can lead to partial or complete loss of sensation in parts of the body including hands, legs and feet. Vagina is an organ with a rich network of nerves. It is, thus, one of the most sensitive organs of the female body. Neuropathy may significantly affect sensation in the vagina, leading to a lower sexual drive in women.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
PCOS is a metabolic syndrome caused due to hormonal imbalance in the female body. It affects fertility in women and causes irregular periods. Other symptoms include facial hair, loss of hair, acne, weight gain, skin darkening (especially around the neck, elbows and armpit) and depression. Females with PCOS are at a great risk of getting diabetes. PCOS is thus an important warning sign of an impending diabetic condition.
Symptoms of Diabetes in Both Women And Men
- Excessive hunger or thirst (dry mouth)
- Frequent urination
- Cuts and wounds that heal slowly
- Recurrent chest / urinary infections
- Unexplained weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Reduced sensation in hands and feet
- Recurring skin infections
- Breath with sweet or fruity odor.
Risk Factors for Diabetes in Women
The risk factors for diabetes in women include:
- Being 45 years or older
- Being obese or overweight
- Having PCOS
- Having developed gestational diabetes when you were pregnant
- Having a family history of diabetes
- Having high blood pressure
- Having high blood cholesterol
- Having a history of heart disease or stroke
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle or are active less frequently
- Belonging to a certain race (African-American, Native Alaskan, Native American, Asian-American or Pacific Islander)
Preventing Early Signs Of Diabetes In Women
Make Changes to Your Diet And Lifestyle
Diet plays an important role in fighting diabetes. Drop your carb intake (bread, pasta, rice). Ensure at least half your meal comes from veggies. Get plenty of fruit in every day. Have good quality fats (grass-fed butter and ghee, avocados). Get moving through the day. Go for a brisk walk or jog for at least 30-45 minutes daily. Or play your favorite game.
Keep Weight in Check
Drop your scales as this will see you develop better insulin resistance to keep diabetes at bay.
Take Dietary Supplements
Cigarettes are terrible for diabetes. They worsen your insulin resistance.
If you show some of the early signs of diabetes, take home some of the pearls shared above and get a grip on your glucose as soon as possible!