Women and Diabetes

Women and Diabetes

Diabetes is a chronic disease that arises when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, leading to hyperglycemia. This is associated with long-term damage to the body and failure of various organs and tissues.1

 

Diabetes requires careful control and monitoring. Uncontrolled diabetes can damage tissues in a variety of organs, that may lead to cardiovascular disease, kidney failure, nerve damage, or vision loss.2 Diabetes in women is unique in that it can impact them as well as their offspring.
 

The burden of diabetes on women is unique because the disease can affect both mothers and their unborn children. Uncontrolled or undiagnosed diabetes during pregnancy can lead to life-threatening complications, including miscarriage and birth defects. Additionally, pregnancy can induce gestational diabetes, which puts women at risk for type 2 diabetes later in life.3

 

  • The number of women with diabetes was estimated at 181 million in 2012. By 2030, this number is expected to rise to more than 275 million. It is estimated that 50% of people with diabetes remain undiagnosed.1
  • Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women globally, resulting in 2.1 million deaths per year.1
  • Without proper diagnosis and healthcare, women are at twice the risk of premature death leading from the common complications of diabetes—cardiovascular disease, stroke, and kidney failure.4
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Risk Factors

The risk factors for type 1 diabetes are still being researched. However, having a family member with type 1 diabetes increases the risk for developing the condition, as does the presence of some genetic factors.

There are numerous modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors5 for the development of type 2 diabetes.

 

Modifiable risk factors:

  • Obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Poor nutrition during pregnancy
  • Physical inactivity

 

Non-modifiable risk factors:

  • Ethnicity
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Increasing age—women over 50 years
     

Symptoms

Diabetes symptoms5 in women present in a variety of ways, and some people have no signs or symptoms. Diabetes may be diagnosed after a fasting plasma-glucose or glucose tolerance test.

 

Signs or symptoms of diabetes include:

  • Abnormal thirst and dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Extreme tiredness/lack of energy
  • Constant hunger
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Recurrent infections
  • Blurred vision
     

Complications

Effective management of diabetes and maintaining a normal blood-glucose level reduces the risk of complications.5 Monitoring and early detection of complications is an essential part of good diabetes care. This includes regular foot and eye checks, controlling blood pressure and blood glucose, and assessing risks for cardiovascular and kidney disease.

 

Common complications of diabetes include:

  • Cardiovascular disease         
  • Retinopathy
  • Neuropathy
  • Amputation
  • Kidney disease
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure

 

Solutions

Reducing the burden of diabetes in women includes:

  • Understanding risk factors
  • Making rapid, accurate diagnoses when symptoms occur
  • Implementing appropriate therapies
  • Monitoring treatment

Throughout a woman’s lifetime, there are a number of conditions and diseases that affect her differently, or to a greater extent, than men. Many of these conditions and diseases are interconnected, where the onset of one leads to a greater risk of developing another. With an enhanced understanding and focus on the unique healthcare needs of women, healthcare providers across the continuum of care can be better equipped to prevent, detect, and treat the most threatening diseases affecting their female patients throughout all stages of their lives.


 

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