Despite statistics revealing that men have a slightly higher chance of developing diabetes than women, once diagnosed, studies have shown that the challenges are greater, on average, for women than men.
So what are the symptoms and complications of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes that are unique to women? Things like UTIs, yeast infections, mental health concerns are all common in women living with diabetes. The good news is there are many things you can do to keep physically and mentally strong whilst managing your condition.
Though not all can be altered or managed, there are steps you can take to avoid or reduce the effects of diabetes complications and manage symptoms.
Keep a check on those fluctuating hormones.
It is almost impossible to completely manage your hormone levels so being mindful that they will affect your diabetes is key. It may be necessary to increase your glucose level checks around your period, as hormone changes may affect your levels in a way you are not expecting. You will soon learn what to look for and adjust your medication or diabetes management accordingly. Hormone replacement therapy may be an option for women going through, or leading up to, menopause. It is important to educate yourself with the symptoms of menopause and diabetes as some women mistake symptoms of menopause to be issues with their diabetes management and vice versa.
Some birth control pills can increase blood glucose.
If you are taking birth control, ask your doctor about switching to a low-dose birth control pill or discuss the best options with him/her. Birth control may also regulate heavy and painful periods which in turn can make it easier to manage your diabetes.
Regular health checks
According to Annals of Internal Medicine 2007 study previously quoted, women with diabetes should be tested for heart disease risk factors, like high blood pressure or unbalanced blood fats more frequently and treated aggressively. They also recommended that health history related to female biology should be considered more seriously for preventing diabetes and for managing it once diagnosed. Being aware of the increased risk of specific complications for women with diabetes, like kidney disease for example, ensures you and your doctor will be more likely to identify any symptoms early.
Drink plenty of fluids (mostly water) and if you do have recurring UTIs, consider drinking low-sugar cranberry juice (not cranberry juice cocktail) or taking cranberry supplements. Cranberries are thought to contain substances that prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. Eating yogurt that contains healthful bacteria can help or take a probiotic supplement that contains lactobacillus rhamnosus or lactobacillus reuteri. Wear cotton underwear and urinate frequently – don’t hold it for too long.
Talk it up
If you think you might be depressed or are struggling to cope with your diabetes management, seek help right away. Your doctor or diabetes educator can refer you to a mental health professional. Keep talking to family and friends about the way you are feeling as just speaking about what’s on your mind can ease the stress.
If you do find yourself with a yeast infection, there are over the counter and prescription medications to treat it. Maintaining stable blood glucose levels can help you to potentially avoid yeast infections altogether. Regular exercise, reducing your carb intake and choosing low-glycaemic foods may also help.
General health and fitness
While biology is important, it isn’t everything. There are lifestyle choices you can make, like exercising regularly and eating well, to improve your health and avoid diabetes complications. Maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking and having a good relationship with your health care team are all important factors in managing your diabetes well.
If you have any burning question about any of these, please feel free to give our helpline a call to speak to a Credentialled Diabetes Educator. They are available on 1300 001 880, Monday – Friday, 8:30am -4:30pm.