By Doris Obinna
When someone begins to experience frequent urination, increased thirst and increased hunger, all is certainly not well with the body. Such a person may be suffering from prolonged high sugar level, which, when untreated could lead to complications.
Indeed, prolonged high blood sugar, also know as diabetes mellitus, comes about as a result of disorder in the “chemical processes that occur in a living organism in order to maintain life.” Simply put, it is a condition caused by problem in the processing or production of insulin. The condition is widespread, and effects male and female, irrespective of age, race or lifestyle.
However, a study in Annals of Medicine indicated that between 1971 and year 2000, the death rate of men with diabetes fell, while that of women did not show any sign of improvement. A lot of factors have been blamed for this. These include: “Diabetes complication in women is difficult to diagnose; women have different kinds of heart disease than men; and hormones and inflammation act differently in women.”
Nations marked the World Diabetes Day (WDD) on November 14, with special attention on women. Powered by International Diabetes Federation (IDF), this year’s WDD focused on promoting the importance of affordable and equitable access for all women living with diabetes to the essential diabetes medicines and technologies, self-management education and information they require in achieving optimal diabetes outcomes.
Research has revealed that there are currently over 199 million women living with diabetes, with a projected that there will be an increase to 313 million by 2040. Diabetes is the ninth leading cause of death in women globally, causing 2.1 million deaths each year.
Giving an insight into diabetes, Dr. Alick Richard Masih, said it comes about owing to body’s inability to handle glucose (a type of sugar) properly.
According to him, “glucose is an energy source for the body. Insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas, helps move glucose from the blood stream to the body’s cells. In diabetes, insulin is either not produced by the body or works ineffectively (Type 1 diabetes) more common in children and young adult.
“Type 2 diabetes is more common and associated with increased weight and inactivity. Both types of diabetes result in high blood sugar levels. Two more groups of diabetes that exists are pre diabetes and gestational diabetes.”
Masih said prolonged levels of high blood sugar could damage multiple organ systems, including the eyes (leading to blindness); the kidneys (leading to kidney failure and dialysis); and the nervous system (leading to decrease in sensation, injuries to extremities, and amputations).
“Diabetes also damages the cardiovascular system and dramatically increases the risk for heart attacks and stroke, particularly in those that smoke,” he said.
Symptoms in women
Women exhibit many unique symptoms, including the general ones by all people living with the condition. The unique symptoms for women include: Vaginal and oral yeast infections and vaginal thrush, urinary infections, female sexual dysfunction and polycystic ovary syndrome.
Vaginal and oral yeast infections and vaginal thrush:
According to Healthline.com, an overgrowth of yeast caused by the candida fungus could cause vaginal yeast infections, oral yeast infections, and vaginal thrush, which are common in women.
“When the infection develops in the vaginal area, symptoms include itching, soreness, vaginal discharge, and painful sex. Oral yeast infections often cause a cottage-cheese coating on the tongue and inside of the mouth. High levels of glucose in the blood triggers the growth of fungus,” it stated.
Women suffering diabetes stand higher risk of urinary tract infection (UTI), which develop when bacteria enter the urinary tract, causing painful urination, a burning sensation, and bloody or cloudy urine. If left untreated, there’s the risk of a kidney infection.
Experts say “UTIs are common with diabetes due to poor circulation and the inability of white blood cells to travel through the bloodstream and kill infections.”
Female sexual dysfunction
Experts say “diabetic neuropathy occurs when high blood glucose damages nerve fibers, which could trigger tingling and loss of feeling in different parts of the body, including the hands, feet, and legs. This condition may also affect sensation in the vaginal area and lower a woman’s sex drive.”
Polycystic ovary syndrome
Healthline.com stated that polycystic ovary syndrome disorder occurs when the adrenal gland produces a higher amount of male hormones. “Signs of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) include irregular periods, weight gain, acne, and depression. It can also cause infertility and a type of insulin resistance. This results in elevated blood sugar levels and increases the risk of developing diabetes,” it said.
However, there are other common symptoms of diabetes, in both male and female. They include: Increased thirst and hunger, frequent urination, weight loss or gain that has no obvious cause, fatigue, blurred vision, wounds that heal slowly, nausea, skin infections, patches of darker skin in areas of the body that have creases, irritability, breath that has a sweet, fruity, or acetone odor, and reduced feeling in your hands or feet
However, many people with type 2 diabetes have no noticeable symptoms.
Causes of diabetes in male and female
A research states that the exact cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown. What is known, however, is that the immune system, which normally fights harmful bacteria or viruses attacks breaks down and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. This leaves you with little or no insulin. Instead of being transported into your cells, sugar builds up in your bloodstream.
“Exactly why this happens is uncertain, although it’s believed that genetic and environmental factors play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Being overweight is strongly linked to the development of type 2 diabetes, but not everyone with type 2 is overweight,” an expert states.
During pregnancy, the placenta produces hormones to sustain a woman’s pregnancy. These hormones make the woman’s cells more resistant to insulin. When this happens, too little glucose gets into the cells and too much stays in the blood, resulting in gestational diabetes.
Diabetes could be prevented by the control of the following: Blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, waist and hip ratio, (typically with the help of medications), as well as regular eye and foot checks.
Masih said: “Quitting smoking, increasing physical activity, eating a healthy diet, and finding a good physician and team that will work with you to manage all of these issues is extremely important.
“Be diligent about maintaining your health. Patients with diabetes can best minimise the risk for complications associated with this epidemic condition.”
Foods that can help
A healthy diet is an important part of managing diabetes well. But when you are living with type 2 diabetes, eating smart is essential to managing your condition. A healthy diet helps you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. It can help keep your blood sugar levels stable. Following your diet plan helps prevent complications such as heart disease and high blood pressure and keep your diabetes under control.
Eating a high-fiber diet rich in natural whole foods (unrefined and unprocessed fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, and peas), while restricting or eliminating foods containing refined carbohydrates, such as white rice, white bread, potatoes, packaged snacks, cakes, and pastries help in preventing diabetes.