Nearly 10 million American women have diabetes, according to National Institutes of Health. It is the sixth leading cause of death and a major contributor to heart disease, which is the No. 1 killer of women.
Diabetes is an important women’s health issue as this chronic disease can create a multitude of problems in women. For example, deaths from heart disease in diabetic women rose 23 percent over the past 30 years, compared to a decrease of 27 percent in nondiabetic women, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Women with diabetes have a greater risk than nondiabetic women of developing vaginal and urinary tract infections, especially during pregnancy. Even for women who do not have diabetes, an estimated 2 to 5 percent of pregnancies result in the development of gestational diabetes. Although this form of diabetes disappears after delivery, women who have had gestational diabetes have a much greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Additionally, women are at increased risk for many diabetic complications. In some cases, the rates of these complications are higher for women than men.
Signs and symptoms of diabetes in women
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes typically develop over a short period of time. With type 2 diabetes, symptoms generally develop at a slower pace. Sometimes people have only mild symptoms or do not experience symptoms at all. It is not uncommon for a woman to have type 2 diabetes for 10 years or more before being diagnosed.
For this reason, it is important Signs of diabetes in women should be closely monitored. Common symptoms of diabetes include:
• Frequent urination (polyuria)
• Excessive thirst (polydipsia)
• Extreme hunger (polyphagia)
• Unexplained weight loss
• Increased fatigue
• Blurry vision
• Slow–healing sores
• Frequent infections, including yeast infections, urinary tract infections, skin infections and thrush
• Dry, itchy skin (pruritus)
• Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
• Red, swollen or tender gums or gingivitis
Signs of diabetes in women vary and can also be caused by many other conditions. Women experiencing any of these symptoms are encouraged to see a physician.
Women should be aware that certain complications may cause different symptoms as compared to men. A woman who suffers a heart attack, for instance, may have less typical symptoms. Women are less likely than men to feel severe chest pain and are more likely to report a feeling of severe heartburn in the upper abdomen or pain in the breast.
Unless a woman is familiar with these atypical symptoms, she may delay getting to the hospital. Because cardiovascular conditions are common among patients with diabetes, women should learn all they can about specific complications that can occur.