How diabetes affects women’s health

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How diabetes affects women’s health

Being a woman with diabetes has its own unique health problems different from men. This disease, which causes blood sugar or blood glucose to be too high, can cause serious health problems when it is out of control.  Blood glucose is our body’s main source of energy which comes from the food you eat. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps glucose from food get into your cells to be used for energy. But sometimes your body doesn’t make enough – or any – insulin or doesn’t use insulin well.  When that happens, glucose levels become elevated in your blood and are unable to reach your cells.

Just how different is diabetes for women?  Here’s a look at how women with diabetes may face multiple health issues:

·      Heart disease

Women with diabetes will have about four times the risk of developing heart disease compared to only about two times the risk in men. Women will also have worse outcomes after a heart attack.

·      Disease-related complications

Women with diabetes are more likely to be at a higher risk of other diabetes-related complications such as kidney disease, blindness, and depression.

·      Yeast and urinary tract infections

While many women may have at least one yeast infection in her life, women with diabetes are at a higher risk especially if they’re blood sugar levels are high. The same is true for women with diabetes and urinary tract infections (UTIs). They’re risk for UTIs are increased when they have diabetes. Causes include high blood sugar levels and poor circulation (which reduce your body’s ability to fight infections).  Another cause is the fact that women with diabetes have bladders that don’t completely empty all the way because of their disease, which creates a perfect environment for bacteria to grow.

To prevent UTIs and yeast infections, you should manage your blood sugar level as close to your target range as possible. Also, drink lots of water each day, wear cotton underwear, and urinate often instead of waiting until your bladder is full.

·      Menstrual Cycle

Right before and during your menstrual cycle can bring about changes in hormone levels making blood sugar levels hard to predict. Other changes can be longer or heavier periods, and food cravings making managing diabetes more difficult.

To prevent wide blood sugar swings during the time of the month, check your blood sugar often keeping track of the results to see if there is a pattern. Is you use insulin, you may need to take more in the days before you period. Always talk to your doctor before changing your dosage. It may also help to be active on most days, eating healthy food in the right amounts and get sufficient sleep.

·      Sex

Your sex life can also be impacted by your disease. Reduced libido, vaginal dryness making intercourse uncomfortable or even painful, are some of the ways this aspect your life can be affected. Why would your sex life possibly change due to diabetes?  Causes can include nerve damage, reduced blood flow, medications, and hormonal changes, including pregnancy and menopause.

Any sexual issues that come about be sure to discuss this with your doctor. There are many options from using vaginal lubricants to doing exercises that can increase sexual response.

·      Birth control

If you do not want to become pregnant, using birth control is a must. It is advisable to wait to conceiving until your blood sugar levels are in your target range. Elevated blood sugar levels can cause problems during pregnancy for you and your baby such as a high birth weight baby to a more difficult labor and delivery.

Talk with your doctor about birth control options. As always, keep checking your blood sugar levels both before and after getting pregnant.

·      Getting pregnant

To have the best possible outcome of a healthy pregnancy and baby, planning ahead is very important. Diabetes can make it harder to get pregnant; in addition when you do become pregnant, if you are having high blood sugars, this can increase your risk for preeclampsia or high blood pressure, a delivery by cesarean section (C-section), and a miscarriage or stillbirth.  High blood sugar during pregnancy can also increase the chance that your baby could be born too early, weight too much, or have breathing problems or low blood sugar right after birth.

Be sure to work with your healthcare team when pregnant. Manage your blood sugar to keep it in your target range and start establishing good habits such as eating health and being active.

·      Menopause

When a woman goes through menopause, her body will make less of the hormone estrogen.  This can lead to unpredictable highs and lows in blood sugar. Weight gain can also occur which increases your need for insulin or other diabetes medications. If you experience night sweats and hot flashes, this can disrupt your sleep leading to elevated blood sugar levels.

Talk with your doctor on ways to manage menopause symptoms.  This might mean a change in medication or dosage of insulin.  Because the risk of heart disease goes up after menopause, be sure to eat a heart healthy diet, exercise regularly, reduce stress and get a good night’s sleep.