Many women must deal with diabetes as well as menopause. Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, there are extra health considerations that may or may not impact your menopausal and perimenopausal years.
Types of diabetes
*Juvenile or type 1 diabetes affects young children who are either born with or develop diabetes as children.
*Adult onset or type 2 diabetes generally strikes later in life and is generally considered to result from genetic risks and lifestyle factors.
No matter which type of diabetes you may have you will need to consider the following when talking to your doctor and looking into possible menopause treatments.
According to Women’s Health Matters, women with type 1 diabetes tend to start having menopausal symptoms earlier than the ‘typical average’ age of 51 years. This could be due to the way that hormonal imbalances affect blood sugar levels but studies are still not conclusive. During menopause, type 1 diabetics may notice they are more prone to hypoglycaemia or lowered blood sugar levels but this is not always the case.
Alternatively, women who develop type 2 diabetes may enter menopause at a later age. Part of the explanation lies in that type 2 or Adult diabetics tend to be overweight; estrogen hormone levels decrease less rapidly in overweight or obese women.
Menopause and diabetes concerns
Lowered blood sugar: As noted above, blood sugar levels may become even more erratic causing unusual interactions between your cells and insulin. Diabetes means constant blood sugar monitoring but you may notice your levels are more unpredictable.
Weight gain: Particularly for type 2 diabetics, increased weight gain puts increased stain on the body which in turn requires more insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels. Earlier we noted that estrogen levels may not decrease as quickly in overweight women but the increased demand for insulin and the weight itself affect how the body functions.
Female genital infections: Normally, high blood sugar levels lead to greater risk for urinary and vulvar yeast infections. Estrogen helps to prevent too much bacteria and yeast from growing in the urinary tract and genital region; lowered estrogen levels mean more chances for yeast and bacterial infections to occur.
Sleep disruptions: Chronic insomnia, due to either being unable to sleep or waking up because of night sweats, negatively affects blood sugar levels. Plus without sufficient rest you will be fatigued and find it harder to get through your days.
Painful intercourse: Both types of diabetes damage the vulvar nerve cells. Combine this with vulvar dryness during menopause and intercourse becomes even more uncomfortable.
Treating menopause and diabetes presents increased challenges for both patients and healthcare professionals. If you have always had diabetes or recently developed this condition, make note of your physical symptoms so that you can discuss what is happening to your body on your next doctor visit and more importantly, get the help you need to balance both hormones and blood sugar levels.
Looking for more info? Check out www.womenshealthmatters.ca/centres/diabetes/menopause or www.mayoclinic.com/health/diabetes to conduct more research
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You