Diabetes Awareness Month: What Women Should Know About Diabetes

Diabetes Awareness Month

November is Diabetes Awareness Month. People do not often know there are three common types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational. All of these types of diabetes are caused by high levels of glucose (blood sugar) in your body, but each type has its own symptoms, risk factors, and treatments.

In the US, diabetes affects around the same number of men and women. However, diabetes often poses a higher risk for women. When compared to men, women with diabetes are at higher risk for heart disease, depression, and blindness and also suffer a lower survival rate and quality of life after a heart attack. This November, educate yourself about diabetes and your potential risks as a woman:

What Causes Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is often called juvenile diabetes because it frequently manifests in children and adolescents, but it can also develop in adults. Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition that stops your pancreas from producing insulin. It is unclear what causes type 1 diabetes, but several factors can play a role in its development including genetics, certain viruses, and environmental factors.

Type 2 is frequently referred to as adult onset diabetes, but researchers have recently seen an increase in the number of juveniles diagnosed with it as well. Type 2 diabetes affects the way the body metabolizes sugar and stops the body from either producing or responding to insulin properly. It is also unclear what causes type 2 diabetes, but environmental and personal factors like diet, weight, and inactivity play a large role. Women of color and women who have polycystic ovary syndrome are also more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms of Diabetes:

The symptoms of type 1 diabetes can occur suddenly. Type 2 diabetes’ symptoms have a slow onset, meaning patients often have diabetes for years without realizing it. Many of the symptoms overlap and include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Increased thirst and frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Increased hunger

Symptoms for type 2 diabetes also include slow-healing wounds and sores, areas of darkened skin on the feet or armpits, and frequent infections. You should see a doctor if you notice any of the symptoms above.

Can Diabetes Cause Other Health Concerns?

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can lead to the development of other health issues like:

  • Eye damage including glaucoma, cataracts, and blindness
  • Kidney damage
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy) which can eventually result in losing feeling in your extremities
  • Nerve damage to the digestive system leading to nausea, diarrhea, and constipation
  • Blood vessel damage, which can cause high blood pressure
  • Heart disease, increasing the chance of heart attack and stroke

Type 1 diabetes is also linked to pregnancy complications for both mother and child. It is possible to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery with type 1 diabetes, but you should plan with your doctor before you get pregnant to make sure there are no extra risks involved. You will need to be diligent about monitoring your blood sugar, taking your medication, and continuing a healthy lifestyle.

Treating Diabetes:

Type 1 diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be treated and its symptoms can be managed. After meeting with your doctor, you will need to undergo lifelong insulin therapy. There are several types of insulin that can be administered in several different ways; your doctor will be able to prescribe the best type for you. You will also need to monitor your blood sugar and maintain and healthy weight through healthy diet and exercise. No specific diet is recommended other than low-fat and high-fiber, with a focus on increasing your consumption of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Type 2 diabetes also does not have a cure, but it can be managed and treated as well. In addition to monitoring your blood sugar, you doctor will prescribe a series of lifestyle changes and possibly insulin or another diabetes medication. Losing weight will help you manage your diabetes; any amount of weight loss is good, but research shows loss of 7% of body weight is ideal. Additionally, you should eat a healthy diet consisting of more fruits, vegetables, and fiber. You should avoid refined carbohydrates and saturated fats. You should aim to exercise for between 30-60 minutes a day as well.

Gestational Diabetes

Around 10% of pregnancies in the US are affected by gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is temporary, because it is caused by how your placenta interacts with your blood sugar and insulin. Gestational diabetes typically develops in the later half of the pregnancy. It is very possible to have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby if you have gestational diabetes; you just need to be diagnosed by your doctor and develop a plan for a healthy pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes may put you at a higher risk for high blood pressure, preeclampsia, preterm birth, and developing type 2 diabetes later in life. It can also put your baby at risk for respiratory distress syndrome and excessive birth weight. You should talk to your doctor when you first start trying to become pregnant so they can coach you on ways to avoid gestational diabetes like losing weight before becoming pregnant, eating a healthy diet, and staying active.

Have questions about diabetes or want to get tested? The team at Capital Women’s Care can help. Call us today!

Our Mission

The providers of Capital Women's Care seek the highest quality medical and ethical standard in an environment that nurtures the spirit of caring for every woman.


Go to top