Women and Diabetes: All You Need To Know
On 14th November, marking World Diabetes Day, the International Diabetes Federation has announced the theme of the day to be Women and Diabetes.
Women sure have to go through a lot – menstruation, pre-menstrual mood swings, pregnancy, labour! As if only these weren’t enough, diabetes brings to women an additional type, just built for them; apparently, it’s called gestational diabetes.
Let’s have a look at what women’s diabetic basket holds!
Before we go there, let’s read a little about what diabetes is.
A hormone called insulin is produced in our pancreas, which converts glucose into energy. If the food we eat has more glucose than the released insulin can process, we have diabetes. Diabetes in women can occur in two ways and hence have two types:
Type 1: This is a classic case of our immune cells perceiving our other body cells as their enemies. When our immune system thinks that the cells producing insulin inside our pancreas are foreign bodies, it attacks then, causing them to produce less insulin than they normally do. This causes Type 1 diabetes.
Type 2: When the body isn’t able to utilise the insulin produced by the pancreas to keep blood glucose regulated, we experience what is known as Type 2 diabetes. In simple terms, it’s nothing but insulin resistance.
The difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes is the fact that while in Type 1, the pancreas don’t produce sufficient insulin, in Type 2, they do, but they body resists it.
Like we mentioned above, both men and women are affected by the above types of diabetes, but there’s one kind that only women can get.
Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes which affects only during pregnancy. It affects one in seven births. However, a woman may not suffer from gestational diabetes in all her pregnancies. With age, the chances of getting gestational diabetes increases.
The symptoms of gestational diabetes are similar to the other types of diabetes. But, they are not always visible. This is why pregnant women are screened for gestational diabetes at the beginning of their second trimester.
Gestational Diabetes generally subsides after the pregnancy.
Symptoms of Diabetes:
A lot of symptoms of diabetes are common for both men and women such as:
- Excessive thirst or hunger
- Slow-healing of wounds
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Skin infections
- Sweet or fruity breath odour
There are certain symptoms of diabetes which can only be experienced by women such as:
- PCOD – causes irregular periods, hair growth in face and body, weight gain, acne etc.
- Yeast infections – oral and vaginal yeast infections which are characterised by white patches in the mouth, swollen gums, itchy and sore vagina, vaginal discharge, painful sexual intercourse.
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) – Bacterial growth in the urethra, kidney etc. characterised by burning sensation during urination, bloody or cloudy urine.
- Sexual Dysfunction: Diabetes may make the nerves insensitive. Since a woman’s sexual organs have a lot of nerves in them, diabetic women may experience lower sexual drive, dry vagina, difficulty in orgasming.
Health risks in diabetic women
- Diabetes in women can get very risky.
- As compared to men, diabetes in women increases the chance and intensity of heart attack.
- Type 2 diabetes affecting kidney causes more damage to women than men.
- PCOD, a symptom of diabetes in women, causes infertility.
- Diabetic women run the risk of suffering from depression twice as much as men.
- Diabetes may even cause miscarriage during a pregnancy.
- Diabetic women tend to grow eating disorder as well.
- One of the major complications of high-level diabetes is blindness.
Prevention and Treatment of Diabetes in Women
Diabetes is the most progressive global lifestyle disease. The best way to prevent diabetes is to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and the best way to manage diabetes is to bring a healthy change in your lifestyle.
These are the things which may help you prevent or control diabetes:
- Medications including insulin therapy may help in diabetes management.
- Mineral supplements like chromium or magnesium may also be used.
- Eating diabetes-friendly foods like broccoli, peas, fenugreek seeds etc.
- Abstain from smoking.
- Exercise and maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat healthy food. Interestingly, the prescribed diet for a diabetic patient is not very different from a non-diabetic person.
But, before doing anything like taking any self-prescribed medicines or making drastic lifestyle changes, it’s always wise to get your situation evaluated by an expert. Talk to your doctor and figure out how to best manage your diabetes. It’s essential that you keep checking your blood glucose levels, just to ensure that if need be, you can get started with medications and treatments, There are doctors who have specialised in treating diabetic women or are highly experienced in treating diabetes in general.
With proper management, your diabetes becomes a part of daily life and not a disease anymore!