Diabetes can be a tricky thing to detect, especially since many of the signs are often subtle. Women tend to be particularly at risk, given that hormones can play a role in the development of the disease. But knowing the signs of diabetes can be a powerful tool in helping women guard their health and catch the condition in its earliest stages. In this article, we will explore the main signs of diabetes that women should look out for.
1. What is Diabetes?
Diabetes, also known as diabetes mellitus, is a chronic condition that affects the way the body processes (or doesn’t process) sugar. It occurs when either the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or when the body does not properly use the insulin it produces. As a result, the body is unable to turn glucose from food into energy. Without proper treatment, chronic high levels of glucose in the blood can cause serious health problems.
The most common type of diabetes is type 2 which affects adults, and type 1, which affects children. Both types of diabetes share the same symptoms which include:
- Frequent urination: The body tries to rid itself of unused glucose via the urine,
- Extreme thirst: Your body is crying out for fluids due to the high levels of glucose in the blood,
- Unusual weight loss: Your body is unable to use glucose as energy, so it begins burning fat reserves instead.
Women should watch out for additional symptoms that can signal diabetes, such as unusual fatigue, blurry vision, and tingling or numbness in the lower extremities.
2. Warning Signs of Diabetes in Women
Women should be particularly aware of the warning signs of diabetes, given that they are more likely to develop the disease than men. There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2, but most women with diabetes will have type 2. Here are some warning signs that women should keep an eye out for:
- Frequent urination: Women with diabetes may have to go to the restroom more often than usual. This can be a sign that the body is having trouble processing glucose.
- Extreme thirst: Women may find themselves constantly drinking water, or feeling very thirsty even when they’ve had plenty to drink. This is because their cells are not getting enough water.
- Fatigue: Women may find themselves more tired than usual or suffering from sudden bouts of fatigue. This is because the body is having trouble processing glucose, which is the body’s main source of energy.
- Weight changes: Women might notice sudden fluctuations in their weight or a slow but steady weight gain. This is a result of the body not being able to properly utilize energy.
- Risks of pregnancy: Women with diabetes may have a greater risk for complications during pregnancy, such as premature birth or miscarriage.
- Slow-healing sores: Any cuts or scrapes that a woman has may take longer to heal. This is because diabetes makes it harder for the body to heal itself.
- Blurred vision: Women may start to have trouble focusing their vision, or notice that things seem fuzzy or out of focus. This is a result of damage to the blood vessels in the eyes.
If a woman notices any of these symptoms, she should contact her doctor right away for further testing and diagnosis.
3. Risks of Diabetes for Women
Women living with diabetes are at a higher risk of health complications than men. Here are some of the risks associated with diabetes for women:
- Increased risk of heart disease: As women age, their risk of developing heart disease increases if they have diabetes. High blood glucose levels can damage the blood vessels that supply the heart, leading to increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral arterial disease.
- Risk of stroke: Diabetes can increase the risk of stroke in women due to an increased risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity. When a person has diabetes, their risk for a stroke is twice as high as compared to someone who does not have diabetes.
- Risk of depression: Women with diabetes are at an increased risk of depression. Depression can make it more difficult to manage diabetes, and can increase your risk for other health issues.
- Increased risk of bladder infection: Diabetes increases the risk of bladder infections because of high amounts of sugar in the urine, which can make it difficult for the body to flush out bacteria. This can lead to an increased risk of bladder infections.
- Risk of vision loss: Diabetes can cause damage to the tiny blood vessels in the eyes, resulting in vision loss. This is called diabetic retinopathy and can lead to blindness if it goes untreated.
These are just a few of the risks associated with diabetes for women. It’s important for women to be aware of the signs and symptoms of diabetes and to seek treatment if they think they may be at risk.
4. Diagnosing Diabetes in Women
Diabetic symptoms in women can differ from the general signs. It can be harder to diagnose diabetes in women, so it’s important to look for the following potential signals:
- Frequent Urination: Women who have diabetes often feel the urge to go to the bathroom more often, even when there is nothing to eliminate.
- Urinary Tract Infections: Frequent urination can lead to urinary tract infection, another common symptom of diabetes.
- Diminished Sexual Drive: A reduction in sexual desire or difficulty maintaining arousal could be because of complications of diabetes.
This can be accompanied by several other symptoms, such as weight gain, difficulty losing weight, vision changes, and frequent infections. If you’re experiencing any of these signs, performing self-tests for diabetes and consulting your doctor could prove helpful.
Women are also more likely to develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Considering that diabetes can increase complications while pregnant, it’s important to watch out for a few factors that usually indicate gestational diabetes. These include:
- Excessive Fetal Growth: Women who have developed gestational diabetes will usually have a baby that receives more nutrients and grows bigger due to high amounts of glucose in the mother’s bloodstream.
- High Blood Pressure: Expectant mothers who suffer from gestational diabetes can also have higher blood pressure during their pregnancy.
- Metabolic Issues: Gestational diabetes leads to metabolic problems throughout the entire body, which can cause problems for both mother and baby.
5. Ways to Reduce Diabetes Risk
A diagnosis of diabetes is a difficult reality to face, but it’s important to know the signs. Women make up a large proportion of individuals diagnosed with diabetes and as such should be aware of the signs and symptoms. Once someone is aware of the potential warning signs, they can begin to take action to reduce the risk of diabetes.
- Take Control of Your Diet: Eating an unhealthy diet can increase your risk of diabetes. To decrease the chances of developing the disease, make sure to eat healthy portions of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains throughout the day.
- Exercise Regularly: Regular physical activity can greatly reduce the risk of diabetes. Incorporate at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense exercise, such as running or playing a sport, every day.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Being overweight or obese can increase your risk of diabetes. Keep an eye on your weight, and talk to your doctor if you think you may be at risk of being overweight.
- Manage Stress: Stress can worsen diabetes symptoms, such as high blood sugar levels. Engaging in stress-relieving activities, such as yoga or deep breathing, can help control your diabetes.
- Monitor Blood Glucose Levels: Make sure to monitor your blood sugar levels and keep them within the normal range. Make sure to check with your doctor if your sugar levels are not stable or are increasing.
If you are a woman and have any of these signs of diabetes, it is important to be seen by a doctor right away. Early diagnosis and management of diabetes is key so as to ensure one’s long-term health and well-being. Remember to take any and all symptoms seriously. Caring for oneself early on is the best way to go.