Women and diabetes
WHILE diabetes affects both men and women, it can be more taxing on women because it affects their ability to procreate, can impact on their level of intimacy with their partners, and creates even more of a financial burden for those single mothers who are already struggling to make ends meet.
Diabetic women and men usually experience similar symptoms such as excessive thirst and appetite, unusual weight loss or gain, fatigue, increased urination, blurred vision and the slow healing of sores. However, family physician Dr Jacqueline Campbell explained that the disease usually presents more subtly in women.
"It can present as re-current infections. So you may have repeated yeast infections, or re-current urinary tract infections and you just keep on getting treated without treating the reason why you are getting the infection, which is the diabetes," she explained.
Diabetes is especially worrying for women, because of the risk it poses during pregnancy. Pregnant diabetic women are usually required to make more antennal visits to the clinic or hospital than those women without the condition, due to the fact that their conditions place them at greater risk for miscarriage or increases the chances of their baby being born with a birth defect.
"Some diabetics have problems during pregnancy in terms of monitoring their sugar levels," noted the general practitioner, who is also the author of A Patient's Guide to the Treatment of Diabetes Mellitus.
Some women also become diabetic during their pregnancies, despite not showing any earlier symptoms of diabetes.
"Just the pregnancy itself will make her prone to the development of gestational diabetes," explained Dr Campbell.
"Gestational diabetes usually goes away or resolves with the pregnancy or with delivery, but you'll have a small number of women who go on to being diabetic afterwards. So the pregnancy itself and the hormonal changes, will predispose her to the development of diabetes," she said.
It is also possible to be diagnosed as being pre-diabetic, however, by eating healthy foods in the right proportions and exercising more, this can be reversed.
"I have had patients who were pre-diabetic and when they adhered to their diet, exercised and managed stress, their levels came back normal and they didn't have to go on any medication," said Dr Campbell.
Diabetes sometimes impacts on the sexual health of women, as it results in discomfort during intercourse and a decrease in the amount of vaginal lubrication. Studies also show that diabetic women sometimes experience orgasm less often than those who are without this condition.
Diabetic women are also at greater risk for developing premature menopause, and menopause in turn has also been shown to increase blood glucose levels. This puts these women at even greater risk for cardiovascular diseases.
Women can reduce their risk of diabetes by doing regular screening, controlling their weight, exercising and reducing their intake of simple carbohydrates such as cakes, white rice and processed flour.
"I find that central to the whole management of diabetes, whether it's a man or a woman, is the diet; what you are going to eat. I don't advocate starving at all, but you need to eat properly," said Dr Campbell.