Diabetes can affect anyone. Young or old, male or female, it isn’t exactly a picky condition. But were you aware that diabetes can affect women differently than men?
This can be due to a large number of varied reasons, the largest among which would be the hormonal variations between the two genders.
Furthermore, it is a little-known fact that inflammation affects women differently than men. This means that, since diabetes is classified as chronic low-grade inflammation, its progression, as well as the warning signs, vary significantly in women. (1)
This disease has become one of the biggest lifestyle diseases we can witness in this day and age. In fact, in just 25 years, the global diabetes incidence has practically doubled! At least if one takes into consideration what the WHO (World Health Organization) has to say on this matter.
In the United States alone, over fifteen million women are already living with type II diabetes, with an additional forty million having been diagnosed as prediabetic. This is all according to the 2017 statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
Symptoms of Diabetes
While it’s true that most of the symptoms brought by diabetes are identical for both genders, it has been established that women can also experience some rather unique symptoms, which seem to affect only them. These can include the following: (2)
Oral and Vaginal Infections
Perhaps you’ve heard of Candida albicans? It is a rather common yeast found in everyone’s system, and its overgrowth results in oral thrush and vaginal infections. This type of yeast, like many others, thrives on sugar.
So it’s no surprise that high glucose levels in one’s blood represent a favorable condition for the growth of Candida. The most usual symptoms of vaginal yeast infections include itching, soreness, vaginal discharge, and even pain during intercourse.
On the other hand, when this yeast infection is oral, one can notice a coating (which looks quite similar to cottage cheese) on the tongue and inside the mouth.
Urinary tract infections (or UTIs, for short) are a more common occurrence in women who are already dealing with diabetes. To put it simply, such an infection occurs when the harmful bacteria find their way inside one’s urinary tract, where they proceed in colonizing.
The usual symptoms and warning signs of such an infection are cloudy (or at times even bloody) urine, stinging or pain (or both) during the process of urination, and fever. Other than high blood glucose levels, there are some other factors that may result in getting UTIs.
For example, the inability of one’s immune cells to properly protect one’s system from harmful bacteria, and even poor circulation may be the underlying culprits for the occurrence of such an infection.
This condition is most often caused by high glucose levels in one’s blood. As the name suggests, this involves the nerves losing their natural ability to effectively transmit signals between your brain and other organs. (3)
This may lead to either partial or even complete loss of sensation in certain parts of your body, including your hands, feet, and legs. Your genitals are organs that have a rich network of nerves. Which also makes them one of the most sensitive of your body’s organs.
Neuropathy may bring about a decreased sensation in one’s female reproductive parts, which may end in lower libido in women.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome, or PCOS, is a metabolic syndrome that is caused due to a hormonal imbalance in the female body. It may cause irregular periods and infertility in women. (4)
Some other, common symptoms are hair loss, excess facial hair, weight gain, acne, depression, and darkening of the skin (especially the armpits, elbows, and around the neck). Females already diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome are at a much higher risk of developing diabetes.
Thus, PCOS may very well be an early warning sign of an impending prediabetic or diabetic condition.
Symptoms in Men and Women
Now that we’ve discussed the symptoms which affect only women, let us take a look at the general diabetes symptoms affecting both genders:
- Dry mouth and excessive thirst and hunger
- Frequent urination
- Feeling fatigued
- Slowly-healing wounds and cuts
- Recurring urinary/chest infections
- Weight loss which cannot be explained
- Blurry vision
- Reduced sensation in feet and hands
- Recurring skin infections
- Breath with a fruity or sweet odor
Risk Factors for Women
The risk factors of women developing diabetes include:
- Being over 45
- Having polycystic ovary syndrome
- Being overweight or obese
- Having developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy
- Having a family history of diabetes
- Leading a sedentary lifestyle or being insufficiently active
- Having high blood cholesterol
- Having high blood pressure
- Belonging to a specific race (Native Alaskan, Asian-American, Native American, African American, or Pacific Islander)
- Having a medical history of stroke or heart disease
Preventing Early Signs of Diabetes in Women
You can do this by making changes to your lifestyle, such as your daily diet and your exercise routine/activity levels. Just like there are certain things out there that can heighten your chances of developing diabetes, there are also things you can do to help keep it at bay. (5)
Such things include keeping your weight in check, as well as managing your blood sugar levels. There are a number of dietary supplements which you can take to make things easier for you. For instance, there’s chromium, berberine, vitamin D3, and Gymnema Sylvestre.
You should also avoid smoking. Cigarettes are by no means your friend when it comes to managing or preventing diabetes. Quite the contrary, they have a tendency to worsen your insulin resistance.
And last but not least, you should already be aware that the food you consume plays a vital role in whether you will stay healthy or become prediabetic or even diabetic. We’re not saying you should give up on carbs altogether, but try and limit your daily intake of rice, pasta, or bread, among others.
Furthermore, it’s wise to make sure half of your meal is made from vegetables. Another thing you should get plenty of are good quality fats such as avocado, ghee, and grass-fed butter. Don’t shy away from fruits either, despite what you may have heard about them being high in sugars.
The sugar they contain is way better than anything you will find in a candy bar. Also, try and be as active as you can. You can take brisk walks for about 30-40 minutes a day or play a fun game with your close ones which involve moving around. You have plenty of options, just try not to become a couch potato.
We hope this information and general tips will prove useful to you in both managings or preventing diabetes altogether.