How Diabetes Affects Women

March 08,2022 |
Two women walking on a beach.

Diabetes is one of the most prevalent chronic conditions in the United States. While many people are diagnosed after showing symptoms, there are still millions of people living with undiagnosed diabetes. About 15 million women in the United States have been diagnosed with diabetes, which equates to about 1 in every 9 adult women.1 The problem is that women and men have very different bodies and how they’re affected by diabetes differs. For women, one of the most staggering differences is the impact diabetes has on pregnancy. In this article, we’ll explore all of the aspects regarding how diabetes affects women.


Understanding Diabetes in Women

Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are types of metabolic diseases where a person has difficulty producing or processing insulin.2 Diabetes can affect both women and men, at any age, regardless of race. The problem is that diabetes in women is often left undiagnosed or improperly managed due to the differences in cardiovascular factors, hormones, and symptoms.2 While type 1 diabetes is largely based on genetics and is considered an autoimmune disorder, you’ll usually show symptoms and get diagnosed early in life. Type 1 diabetes can still be diagnosed in adulthood, but it’s less common. Type 2 diabetes is based more on lifestyle, but is influenced by a number of risk factors.

Type 2 diabetes makes up over 95% of all diabetes cases. If you’re a woman, you’re more at risk for developing type 2 diabetes if you:2

  • Are 45 and older
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have had gestational diabetes
  • Have a family history of type 2 diabetes
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Are African American, Native American, Hispanic, or Asian-American
  • Have had a baby with a birth weight over 9 pounds
  • Have high cholesterol
  • Don’t exercise regularly
  • Have a history of heart disease or stroke
  • Have PCOS or other conditions linked to problems with insulin


If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor about what you can do to lower your chances of getting type 2 diabetes now and later in life. There are ways for you to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes, but you’ll need to make some lifestyle changes.


Female Specific Diabetes Symptoms

As a woman, you’re still susceptible to experiencing some of the same symptoms of diabetes as men. These include:2


  • Increased thirst and hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow healing wounds
  • Nausea
  • Skin infections
  • Patches of dark skin
  • Irritability
  • Sweet or fruity breath
  • Breath with an acetone odor
  • Reduced feeling in hands or feet


In addition, there are some symptoms that are specific to women. These include oral and vaginal thrush, urinary tract infections, sexual dysfunction, and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).3


  • Oral and Vaginal Thrush - Women with diabetes are more likely to experience a yeast infection, also known as thrush, in the mouth or vagina due to excess levels of blood sugar.3 If you’ve been experiencing frequent yeast infections or notice a white coating on your tongue that doesn’t go away with brushing, contact your doctor today.


  • Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)While UTIs can occur due to a number of reasons, women with diabetes tend to experience them more frequently. If you’re having chronic UTIs or are suffering from a prolonged UTI that’s not responding to medication, contact your doctor.


  • Female Sexual DysfunctionDiabetic neuropathy is a type of nerve damage that can lead to sexual dysfunction in women.2 This is accompanied by a tingling or loss of feeling in different parts of your body, can affect a woman’s sex drive, and the reduce sensation in the vaginal area.2


  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) – PCOS is a disorder where a woman produces higher amounts of male hormones, thus resulting in a hormone imbalance.3 PCOS is not necessarily considered a symptom of diabetes, but diabetic women are more likely to develop PCOS than non-diabetic women.3 This is likely due to the relation that insulin production plays in both diabetes and PCOS.2 Talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing any signs or symptoms of PCOS.


Understanding Diabetic Problems in Women

While everyone with diabetes will need to manage their insulin and regularly check their blood glucose levels, women need to take a few extra precautions. There are certain ways that diabetes affects the female body due to a woman’s unique reproductive system and all of the hormones involved.

Yeast and Urinary Tract Infections

As we mentioned above, an increase in yeast and urinary tract infections in diabetic women is common. While women are already high at risk for UTIs, diabetes increases this risk even more. One of the reasons for this is because of high blood sugar levels and poor circulation in diabetic people.4 To help reduce your likelihood of experiencing a UTI or yeast infection, it’s important to properly manage your diabetes by regularly checking your blood sugar levels.

The Menstrual Cycle

Your hormones fluctuate right before and during your period, which can make it difficult to predict blood sugar fluctuations.4 Depending on the intensity of your menstrual cycle, managing your diabetes can become more difficult. Some women start to notice consistencies across periods while others are left with unpredictable patterns. The important thing is to continue to check your blood sugar. You might need to increase your insulin in the days before your period and if you have any questions or concerns, always talk to your doctor.4


Some women find that diabetes has an impact on their sexual desire and the overall ability to enjoy it. Vaginal dryness can occur more frequently in diabetic women as a result of diabetic neuropathy we discussed above. Some medications can also impact your sex life, so always talk to your doctor for clarifications and to help figure out what’s causing the issue—it could be as simple as a change of medication. For more information on how diabetes affects a woman’s sexual health, click here.


If you’re trying to have a baby or if you’re already pregnant, it’s important to talk to your doctor and take the necessary precautions. Diabetes can make it harder to get pregnant and having high blood sugar increases your risk for preeclampsia, cesarean deliveries, and miscarriage or stillbirth.4 If you do get pregnant, make sure that you always stick to your prenatal visits and talk with your doctor about how your diabetes management is going. Even if you do not already have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, pregnancy puts you at risk of developing gestational diabetes. While gestational diabetes often goes away after delivery, there are still complications and you’ll be at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Click here for more information on how to keep mom and baby healthy after gestational diabetes.


Finally, going through menopause can have an impact on how you manage your diabetes. During menopause, your body makes less estrogen, which can cause unpredictability in your blood sugar levels.4 Weight gain and sleep disruptions can also contribute to a more difficult management plan. To make sure that you’re managing your diabetes during menopause, measure your blood glucose levels more frequently and talk to your doctor about changing your current regimen of diabetes medicine or insulin. Since heart disease risk also increases after menopause—and diabetes already puts you at higher risk—make heart-healthy choices and live a healthy lifestyle.4


Having diabetes means that you need to take certain precautions and commit to a healthy diabetes management plan regardless of if you’re a man or woman with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. If you feel depressed or anxious, talk to a professional as soon as possible. If you need any blood glucose meters or continuous glucose monitoring devices, Byram Healthcare has you covered. We’re proud to provide you with the latest technology in diabetes management, including continuous glucose monitoring. We’ll work with your insurance provider and doctor to ensure you’re supported from start to finish, maximizing your coverage while minimizing out-of-pocket expenses. For more information and added support with diabetes management, sign up for Byram Healthcare’s Caring Touch At Home Program. We focus on providing exceptional customer service and top-of-the-line brand name products while lowering your overhead costs. The Caring Touch At Home Program combines convenience, affordability, and choice to deliver extensive service and support to everyone living with diabetes.

For added support, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Byram’s Diabetes Center of Excellence—a one source, total solution for diabetes care. Our Center of Excellence combines high quality products with clinical and educational research to help you better manage your condition, support all of your needs, and live a long, healthy life.