Diabetes affects American women and men about equally. But, while many of the symptoms are the same, diabetes can affect women differently than men.
Diabetes is a medical term that indicates a person’s body lacks the ability to produce, or react normally to, the pancreas-produced hormone insulin, which is necessary for normal blood sugar (glucose) function. The result is elevated levels of glucose in the blood and urine. But diabetes isn’t one single disease, and symptoms can vary somewhat, depending on the type of diabetes you have and, also, whether you are a man or woman.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition, resulting in the pancreas being unable to produce any insulin, or a very small amount. People with type 1 diabetes need insulin to survive. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is primarily a disease of lifestyle (usually linked to being overweight and sedentary) and develops when the body’s cells don’t respond normally to insulin, causing glucose to rise in the blood. Some people with type 2 diabetes need insulin, while others can control and even reverse the condition with weight loss, diet, and exercise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared diabetes an epidemic in the U.S., primarily due to the growing number of people with type 2 diabetes. In all, about 34 million adult Americans have diabetes. So, the odds are you or someone you know may have the condition. And it’s important to recognize that, although type1 and type 2 diabetes affect both men and women equally, diabetes symptoms in women can be different.
What’s more, only women experience gestational diabetes, a form of diabetes that can develop during pregnancy. Recognizing diabetes symptoms in a woman who is expecting, and getting appropriate medical care if gestational diabetes is diagnosed, can help protect the health of both the pregnant woman and her unborn child.
Diabetes symptoms in women and men
The American Diabetes Association points out these common symptoms of diabetes in men and women can be obvious or so mild they go unnoticed for a time:
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Feeling very thirsty
- Extreme fatigue
- Feeling hungry even though you’ve eaten
- Bruises or cuts that take an unusually long time to heal
- Weight loss, despite eating more (type 1 diabetes)
- Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands or feet.
We can’t emphasize this enough: Women have additional diabetes symptoms
In all, about one in every nine adult women in the U.S. has diabetes, and the disease can affect women differently than their male counterparts, according the U.S. Office on Women’s Health.
Understanding more about specific symptoms of diabetes in women can help women identify diabetes and get treatment early before serious complications develop,
Symptoms common to women with diabetes include high blood sugar-fueled Candida fungus overgrowth, which causes vaginal yeast infections. Symptoms include itching, soreness, painful sex, and a vaginal discharge. Oral yeast infections are also a frequent sign of diabetes, marked by a thick, white coating on the tongue and inside of the mouth.
Women with diabetes are also more likely to experience bacteria-caused urinary tract infections (UTIs) due to high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) suppressing the immune system. UTIs typically cause painful urination and burning, and bloody or cloudy urine. Without treatment, kidney infections can result.
Female sexual dysfunction can also be a symptom of diabetes in women. High blood sugar can result in diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage) in different parts of the body, including not only hands, legs, and feet but also the vaginal area, resulting in a lowered sexual drive and response.
If a woman develops gestational diabetes during pregnancy, symptoms may be mild or overlooked as part of expecting. However, if you are pregnant and notice increased thirst or the need to urinate more often, don’t assume it is due to your pregnancy. Although all pregnant women are usually tested for the disease between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases explains, if you have a family history of diabetes or develop potential symptoms any time during your pregnancy, talk to your doctor about early testing for gestational diabetes.
June 08, 2020