woman with grey hair checking blood sugar

Diabetes Signs in Women: What to Look For

You may know about the usual diabetes symptom, but are there symptoms of diabetes that are particular to women? These are four diabetes symptoms unique to women for which to watch:

Diabetes symptoms unique to women

  1. Vaginal itching and pain – yeast infections can cause pain, itching and discomfort.
  2. Problems with sexual function – due to lower sex drive, lower blood flow, nerve damage, and vaginal dryness.
  3. Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – linked to infertility and insulin resistance, irregular periods, acne, thinning scalp, and excess hair growth.
  4. Urinary tract infections – bacterial infection in the urinary tract, kidneys, or bladder. High sugar levels in urine provide a breeding ground for bacteria.

When a woman has diabetes, this increases her risk of heart disease, leading to possible death by heart failure. Studies have found that in people with diabetes, heart attacks are more fatal for women than for men. And unfortunately, a 2011 study by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington found that many people are at risk of early death from diabetes and related cardiovascular problems due to ineffective treatment and diagnosis.


Diabetes in men vs. women

When comparing women and men with diabetes, studies have found that:

  1. Kidney disease affects women with diabetes more strongly than men.
  2. Depression is twice as common for women with diabetes than men with diabetes.
  3. Women with diabetes are more likely than men to have poor blood sugar control, obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Why is this, you may ask? Some of the reasons are that:

  • In women with diabetes, the good cholesterol, or HDL, levels drop, resulting in greater risk of heart disease.
  • Women with diabetes have lower estrogen levels, which are associated with kidney disease.
  • Women with diabetes may receive less detailed and effective health care, especially for heart-disease related factors.
  • Women with diabetes also often have PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome, which can cause fertility and other problems.

Other warning signs

Other factors that lead to a higher probability of getting diabetes as a woman include being 45 or older, being overweight, having a sedentary lifestyle, and having a family history of diabetes. If you notice these symptoms, see your doctor to develop a plan to properly manage your health.