Diabetes is a serious health issue. In the U.S., an estimated 34 million people live with diabetes. This is a chronic disease that can shorten your lifespan without proper treatment and management from your women’s health care team. What many people don’t know is that diabetes can affect women a little differently, which can increase health risks and can delay diagnosis and treatment. In this article, we’ll focus on diabetes in women and what you can do to improve your health.
Diabetes is a serious health condition that comes with many health risks and complications. Therefore, it’s essential to make an appointment at our women’s health clinic if you think you might have diabetes. Our team can help you find underlying causes of your symptoms and test for diabetes. Once diagnosed with diabetes, we also offer treatment and ongoing treatment monitoring to help you feel your best and stay healthy.
As many as one in nine women in the U.S. have diabetes, which translates to about 15 million women. Yet, many of these women go undiagnosed and are unaware of the dangers to their health. We’ll go over some of the common symptoms of diabetes in a later section so you can see if you have common signs of the disease. Getting annual health exams can also help with early diagnosis and treatment, as during these appointments we look for common signs of health conditions that might be easy to overlook.
Everyone who suspects they have diabetes should get treatment as soon as possible because of the potential health risks. However, women may be particularly at risk for complications. While diabetes is more common in men, women are more likely to suffer from complications, such as heart disease and kidney disease.
Women with diabetes are about four times as likely to suffer from heart disease, while men are two times more likely to develop heart disease if they have diabetes. As heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, this is a serious concern. Heart disease increases your risk for heart attack, stroke, and other life-threatening conditions. In addition, women with diabetes are more likely to die due to heart disease compared to men.
Diabetes can also increase your risk for kidney disease, as the kidneys work in overdrive to get rid of excess blood sugar. Over time, your kidneys can become damaged from all the extra work and they can’t filter your blood properly. This can lead to major health complications, including kidney failure. Both men and women with diabetes are at risk for kidney disease, but kidney disease is often more severe for women with diabetes.
In addition, women with diabetes have higher risk for other complications, such as blindness and depression. Diabetes can damage your circulatory system, including the sensitive blood vessels in your eyes, which can eventually lead to vision loss and blindness. Diabetes is also linked to higher rates of depression. Therefore, there are many risks associated with diabetes, which is why you should get help from our women’s health care providers if you think you might have diabetes or have an increased risk for diabetes.
Most people have heard of diabetes before, but you might not know exactly what it is. Diabetes is a condition where your blood sugar is higher than normal. For people with type 1 diabetes, this is because your body attacks the pancreatic cells that make insulin, which is a hormone that allows your cells to use sugar in your blood and turn it into energy. Because your body doesn’t produce insulin, your cells are unable to turn sugar into energy. This means the sugar simply stays in the blood instead.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, accounting for about 95% of cases. This is where your cells become less sensitive to insulin over time. Because the cells are somewhat resistant to insulin, they are unable to use as much sugar in your blood for energy, which increases the glucose (sugar) in your blood.
In addition, you can also have prediabetes, which is a condition where your blood sugar levels are elevated, but not to the same extent as someone with diabetes. This is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Many people with untreated prediabetes develop type 2 diabetes within five years. However, it can also be treatable to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes with early intervention.
Therefore, it’s important to talk to our women’s health care providers about diabetes, including your risk and how to prevent it. Getting regular blood sugar tests can also help with early detection so you can take steps to improve your health and prevent complications.
There are many symptoms of diabetes that you may experience. Some symptoms of diabetes for both men and women include:
If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s time to come into our women’s health clinic to discuss them with our providers.
Symptoms of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes often come on gradually, which makes it harder to notice the symptoms. Several of the symptoms are also easy to explain away as getting older or living a busy lifestyle, like feeling fatigued or extremely hungry. However, ignoring symptoms can delay diagnosis and treatment from our women’s health care providers. So, we recommend making an appointment as soon as possible if you notice these issues.
In addition, there are several diabetes symptoms that are unique to women. Some of these symptoms include:
There are several reasons why you might experience these symptoms of diabetes. High blood sugar levels can damage the cardiovascular system, which can reduce circulation. Poor circulation to the vulva and vagina can cause dryness and also make infections worse, as blood flow is necessary for healing. High blood sugar levels can also act as food for bacteria and yeast germs, which can help them grow more quickly and lead to yeast infections and UTIs. Diabetes can also cause nerve damage (neuropathy), which can reduce feeling in your vulva and vagina, which may also account for sexual dysfunction in diabetic women.
Also, many people don’t know that female hormones like estrogen and progesterone can affect blood sugar levels in women with diabetes. For instance, many women notice their blood sugar levels rise around the luteal phase of their period, which is about two weeks before the start of their period. In menopause, hormone fluctuations and low hormone levels can cause unpredictable increases and decreases in blood sugar. Therefore, this is another way that diabetes can affect women differently.
Like many other health conditions, you might have a higher risk for developing diabetes due to certain risk factors. For instance, if you have a family history of diabetes, you might have a higher likelihood of developing diabetes. Some other risk factors include obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption.
In addition, other health issues can also increase your risk for diabetes. Women with PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) are more likely to develop diabetes because it can cause insulin resistance.
Gestational diabetes can also increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes later. Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that develops during pregnancy and typically goes away soon after birth.
It’s important to discuss your risk factors with our women’s health care providers. This helps you understand your risks and what you can do to help prevent diabetes. Our team may recommend lifestyle changes like quitting smoking or losing weight to reduce your risk for diabetes. Depending on your risks, we may also recommend more frequent screenings to help with early detection of diabetes and prediabetes.
If you develop prediabetes, there are often several things you can do to treat your elevated blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Our women’s health care providers can test your blood sugar levels and create a personalized treatment plan for you. Oftentimes, these treatments include weight loss, improving your diet, and getting active. We may also recommend quitting smoking and reducing your alcohol consumption. Maintaining a healthy weight and losing even a small amount of weight, such as 10% of your total weight, can help reduce blood sugar levels significantly.
If you have diabetes, there are several ways our team can help. While there is currently no cure for this condition, diabetes management can help you reduce your symptoms and health risks. Typically, diabetes treatments involve a mixture of lifestyle changes, like losing weight and beginning an exercise program, as well as medications. Insulin is one of the most common medications for people with diabetes, however there are also other medications that may work better for you. Our women’s health care team works with you to find treatments that work well for your diabetes and your lifestyle.
Addressing your whole health is easy with our team at HerKare. We are dedicated to empowering women through top quality health care services from providers that listen and care about you. Our team offers personalized treatment solutions and ongoing monitoring for a wide range of conditions, including diabetes, menopause, high cholesterol, and other common health issues. Schedule an appointment today at one of our convenient locations!