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Menopause and Diabetes: What You Need to Know

If you have diabetes and are going through menopause, you know that both conditions together can be hard to manage. Even the length of time leading up to menopause can cause hormonal changes that might lead to discomfort. 

A recent study has shown that sleep disturbances are much more likely in women with diabetes going through menopause. The study published in Menopause revealed that women with type 2 have more sleep problems during menopause than those without. In addition, their sleep problems were more severe than in women without diabetes. 

Symptoms that lead to sleep problems include frequent urination, hot flashes, night sweats, headaches, anxiety, and numbness

Previous studies have linked early menopause with type 2 diabetes, however it is unclear if one causes the other or if they are linked by other factors. 

What is menopause?

Menopause is the time when a woman stops having periods around the age of 50. Estrogen levels decrease, and ovulation ceases. Periods will gradually become less frequent and then stop. Menopause comes with many physical and emotional symptoms that can take managing. It’s important to get help from a medical professional when you need it. 

Common menopausal symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and fluctuating blood sugar levels. 

Effects of diabetes and menopause on the body

Blood sugar levels. It’s hard enough to manage blood sugar levels with diabetes, but when menopause comes into play, changes in estrogen and progesterone can send blood sugar levels out of whack. This can lead to diabetes complications.

Weight gain. Gaining weight is common as we age, but gaining too much weight can add to complications with diabetes and menopause. Your doctor may recommend taking insulin or oral diabetes medications.

UTIs. Unfortunately, with hormone changes come increasing chances of vaginal infections and UTIs. The drop in estrogen after menopause makes it easier for bacteria to grow in the vagina and urinary tract. 

Sleep issues. As already mentioned, sleep problems become much more common with menopause and diabetes. The lack of sleep can in turn make it harder to manage blood sugar levels.

Sexual problems. Menopause can lead to vaginal dryness, and diabetes can cause damage to the nerves of the vagina, leading to pain or lack of arousal during sex. Talk with your doctor about treatments such as a vaginal lubricant or vaginal estrogen therapy.

What can you do?

There are steps you can take to feel better and help your body manage this phase.

  • Get regular physical activity, including weight-bearing exercise.
  • Choose healthy foods.
  • Keep good track of your blood sugar levels and share your log with your doctor.
  • Talk to your doctor about hormone replacement therapy, which is not for everyone due to cardiovascular risks.
  • Ask your doctor about diabetes medications that might help.
  • Get your cholesterol checked and talk with your doctor about cholesterol-lowering medication.
  • Consider using a registered dietitian (RD) to help you plan meals and count carbs.
  • Get tested for osteoporosis and talk with your doctor about medications for it.

If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms, know that you are not alone. Menopause is difficult and even harder with diabetes. Talk with your doctor and come up with a plan for managing this phase of life.