While diabetic symptoms largely mirror each other in men and women, the complications exhibit gender-specific nuances. Research indicates that women with diabetes face a 13% higher risk of all-cause mortality compared to their male counterparts. On the occasion of World Diabetes Day, SheThePeople explores the complexities of diabetes through the eyes of experts and resilient women who have faced its challenges head-on.
In an exclusive interview with Dr Sudeshna Ray, a renowned gynaecologist, and personal accounts from individuals who have experienced diabetes, we unravel the multifaceted nature of this condition.
Types of Diabetes
Type 1 Diabetes
Characterized by autoimmune dysfunction
, Type 1 diabetes prevents the body from producing insulin, the crucial hormone for energy utilization.
Type 2 Diabetes
The most common form, Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body is unable to properly use insulin. It impacts individuals of any lifestyle
, age, race, or gender.
Notably, type 2 diabetes exhibits a higher incidence in men, particularly between the ages of 35-54, where the likelihood of development is twice that of women, even at lower average BMIs.Gestational Diabetes
Arising during pregnancy, gestational diabetes poses additional challenges. It demands special attention due to its potential impact on both the mother and the unborn child.
Gender Disparities in Diabetes
Cardiovascular disease-related deaths are 30% more prevalent, with a staggering 58% increased risk of coronary heart disease. Men may contend with issues like muscle mass loss and genital thrush, whereas women face challenges such as genital yeast infections, urinary tract infections, and polycystic ovary syndrome. Importantly, the severity of complications differs significantly between genders.
Diabetes in Men
For men, complications may include amputation, neuropathy, retinopathy, cardiovascular disease, and the particularly prevalent erectile dysfunction, affecting 45% of diabetic males due to nerve, muscle, and blood vessel damage. Diabetes in Women
Contrastingly, women grapple with a higher likelihood of heart disease, kidney disease, and depression. The intersection of menopause and diabetes introduces additional complexities, contributing to elevated blood glucose, weight gain, and sleep-related issues. Dr Sudeshna highlights diabetes is the most common endocrinological syndrome in India and it not limit affects women's general health but also their reproductive health, at various stages of their life, it can impact puberty, young adulthood, pregnancy as well as about menopause.
Unique Symptoms in Women
While men and women with diabetes may share common symptoms, some are distinctive to women. Understanding these signs is crucial for early identification and intervention.
Hyperglycemia can lead to Candida fungus overgrowth, causing vaginal or oral yeast infections. Recognising symptoms such as itching, discharge, and soreness is essential.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Women with diabetes are at a higher risk of UTIs
due to compromised immune systems. Symptoms include painful urination and cloudy or bloody urine.
Diabetic neuropathy, a consequence of high blood sugar, may lead to tingling and loss of sensation, including vaginal dryness.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Linked to insulin resistance, PCOS manifests with irregular periods, weight gain, acne, and infertility, emphasizing the intricate relationship between diabetes and reproductive health.
Dr Ray underscores how PCOS, thyroid, and diabetes are interlinked and can pose challenging conditions for her reproductive as well as her overall health.
"Polycystic ovarian syndrome, thyroid disorders, and diabetes are interlinked, presenting challenges to reproductive and menstrual health."
Diabetes and Pregnancy
Managing diabetes during pregnancy is critical for both maternal and fetal well-being. High blood sugar levels can lead to congenital abnormalities, underscoring the importance of meticulous management before and during pregnancy. Dr Ray emphasizes the repercussions of poor diabetes control during pregnancy, highlighting potential complications such as heart abnormalities and structural issues.
The risk of caesarean
is higher for diabetic women, and the babies, often larger, face challenges during delivery.
"Intensive neonatal care is essential, and sometimes, even ICU care for longer periods may be required." Dr Ray underscores the importance of vigilant care before, during, and after pregnancy to prevent ongoing or permanent diabetes in both the mother and the child. Poor control during pregnancy can increase the risk of the child developing diabetes later in adult life."Checking before, during, and after pregnancy is imperative for preventing ongoing diabetes in both mother and baby."
Understanding the risk factors for diabetes is paramount for preventive measures. While genetic predisposition plays a role, lifestyle factors, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status contribute significantly. Management Strategies
Effective management of diabetes involves a multifaceted approach, including medications, lifestyle changes, and alternative remedies.
Insulin therapy and medications like Metformin play pivotal roles in symptom and complication management.
Incorporating regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, and adopting a balanced eating plan are fundamental to diabetes management.
While research on alternative remedies is ongoing, some supplements and herbs may offer slight benefits.
Consultation with a healthcare professional is crucial before exploring these options.
Voices of Experience: Women and Diabetes
Dr. Neerj Kanojia - Bridging Generations with Health Consciousness
"Experiencing diabetes in my 40s after suffering from PCOD since my teenage years taught me the importance of an active lifestyle and better condition management."Dr. Kanojia, now in her mid-60s, actively follows a healthy lifestyle, having learned from her mother's lifelong struggle with diabetes. She emphasizes the need for increased awareness, particularly in rural areas, to ensure a healthier future for all.
Himanshi Khare - From Pregnancy Challenges to Zumba Instructor
"Diagnosed with diabetes during pregnancy, I faced difficulties, but with an active lifestyle and a balanced diet, I reversed PCOD and thyroid issues. Now, I'm a certified Zumba instructor."Khare's journey showcases the transformative power of lifestyle changes, proving that proactive management can lead to a fulfilling and active life. Anonymous
Psychology Student - Managing Diabetes from Childhood
"Detected with type 1 diabetes in childhood, I faced challenges like eye conditions and regular clinic visits. Despite the difficulties, I manage."
Through her experiences she highlights the strength required to manage diabetes from childhood, showcasing the importance of a holistic approach to well-being.
As we observe World Diabetes Day
, let this serve as a clarion call for awareness, support, and proactive healthcare. By understanding the intricacies of the condition, implementing comprehensive strategies, and staying vigilant for unique symptoms, women can lead fulfilling lives despite diabetes. Remember, knowledge is a powerful tool in the ongoing battle against diabetes.