Given that we are currently in the midst of a global pandemic, the assumption can be made that our health is something that is top of mind every single day. While we are arguably more mindful of conserving our well-being more than ever before, for some, especially those living with diabetes, the need to be cautious is at an all-time high. The harsh reality is that 25% of those who went to the hospital with severe COVID-19 infections had diabetes. It is important to note that your risk of contracting the virus isn’t higher if you have diabetes, but you are more likely to have worse complications if you do happen to become sick.
Diabetes is a complex disease that can sometimes leave a life-long impression on how you are able to live your life on a daily basis. This disease can present itself through a variety of different symptoms and is not something to be taken lightly. Women, in particular, will have more to manage if diagnosed. The best thing a woman can do to protect herself from the disease is to know what early symptoms to be on the lookout for. Here are early signs and symptoms of diabetes that are specific to women’s health.
Increased Vaginal Yeast Infections
Ladies, if you have ever had a yeast infection you know how uncomfortable things can quickly become if you let them go untreated. While vaginal infections are common and treatable, women with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing yeast infections more frequently. Yeast infections become recurring when your blood sugar levels are constantly high or above average. Generally, this is the case if your blood glucose is consistently over 250 mg/dL.
When your glucose levels are above average you are passing more sugar through your urine on a regular basis, which changes the chemical balance in your vagina. There are symptoms that are common among women like itching, burning, stinging, various discharge consistencies, and overall inflammation. However, there are additional symptoms that should drastically heighten a woman’s sense of urgency such as:
- Yellow discharge
- Bloody discharge
- Strong-smelling odor
- Pain in your stomach or back
- Excessive urination
All of the symptoms above are key indicators that an infection has progressed and you should seek immediate direction from your doctor.
Progressive Urinary Tract Infections (UTI)
More than 50% of women will have a UTI at some point in their lives. Not only are women with diabetes at an even higher risk of developing a urinary tract infection, but they are likely to have more severe complications which makes them harder to treat. UTIs develop when bacteria populate within your body’s drainage system. Diabetes weakens your body’s immune system defenses when your blood sugar is too high and frequently irregular.
When your immune system is weakened you have less white blood and T cells to fight against bacteria and germs which can allow the infection to progress beyond your urinary tract. This can lead to nerve damage which often results in weakened muscles and signals from your brain to your urinary system that keeps your bladder from emptying properly. If urine remains in the body too long it creates a higher infection risk that is likely to spread. Symptoms that indicate a more severe infection include:
- Back or side pain
- Pressure on your pubic bone and/or in your rectum
- Weakness, fatigue, nausea, and fever
Heightened Sexual Dysfunction
Diabetes and female sexuality are directly related, making sexual dysfunction another early symptom of diabetes in women. Sexual dysfunction means that an individual cannot experience satisfaction from sexual activity. Dysfunction is categorized into four main types of disorders: desire, arousal, orgasm, and pain. While sexual dysfunction in itself is not something that is completely unique to women, there are complications that are specific to female sexuality including:
- Inability to achieve orgasm
- Inadequate vaginal lubrication before and during intercourse
- Inability to relax the vaginal muscles enough to allow intercourse
- Lack of interest in or desire for sex
- Inability to become aroused
- Pain with intercourse
Essentially, this means that a woman does not experience satisfaction from sexual activity because diabetes is known to lower a woman’s sex drive and her ability to enjoy it.
If you’re a woman, you may experience some of the same symptoms of diabetes as a man. However, there are some symptoms that are unique to women. Knowing and understanding the early signs of diabetes symptoms in women will help you identify this disease early on and get the proper treatment.