Vaginal Health in Diabetic Women
- Diabetes is a condition where the sugar levels in blood are consistently higher.
- Type 1 diabetes affects 10% of the people and rest of the 90% of diabetic people have Type 2.
- Problem in and around vagina arises in women with diabetes.
- PCOS, Infertility, miscarriage, difficulty in getting pregnant can be seen.
- Other complications include kidney diseases, heart problems, blurred vision, amputation etc.
Diabetes – a condition when your blood sugar or glucose levels are consistently high. Occasional spike in blood sugar levels after a heavy meal filled with sweets or sugary beverages is ok but the levels stay higher most of the time, you get to get tested.
Blood sugar levels in normal and diabetic people:
There are two types of diabetes:
Type 1 Diabetes: There are certain cells in pancreas called the ‘beta cells’. They produce insulin which is used by the body to absorb the energy/sugar from the blood stream. The immune system mistakes these beta cells as foreign cells and starts attacking them. As a result, insulin production drops and the sugar in the blood is not absorbed by the body organs. Such a condition is categorized as Type 1 diabetes. This affects only 10% of the people.
Type 2 Diabetes: Rest 90% of the diabetic people suffer from this type. In this case, either of the two situations may arise. One is that the pancreas does not produce enough insulin and the second is that the cells (that use the glucose) become insulin resistant. Insulin resistant cells can’t absorb the sugar from blood even through insulin is present.
What are the symptoms of diabetes specific to women?
Though women see many symptoms of diabetes like men such as frequent urination, thirst, fatigue etc, they also see certain symptoms that are specific to their gender. Women specific symptoms of diabetes include:
- Vaginal itching and pain
- Yeast infection in the vagina or in the mouth.
- Vaginal discharge and stinking vagina
- Painful sexual intercourse.
- White patches in mouth
- Trouble eating and/or swallowing
- Swollen red gums or inner cheeks
Along with these, many will also see:
- Decrease in sex drive – This happens because; diabetes damages the blood vessels (at micro, small and large levels) and also the nerves. Damaging of blood vessels result in less blood flow to the vaginal area. This reduces the sexual response and orgasm. Due to the damaged nerves, the signals of stimulation or pleasure are not communicated to the brain properly. This also causes vaginal dryness and decreased sensation.
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) – PCOS causes irregular or no periods at all. Because of this, the egg release cycle changes affecting the fertility of the woman. Diabetes also causes thinning of hair on scalp, hair growth on face, acne etc. Even high insulin levels cause diabetes and such women are more likely to develop PCOS.
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) – Kidneys are connected to the bladder through ureters and the urethra connects to the bladder on one side and ends above the vagina to carry the urine out of the body. Infection to any of the kidneys, urethra, ureters or bladder is called ‘Urinary Tract Infection’. As the urine contains high amounts of sugar in diabetic people, it creates a perfect condition for growth of bacteria. The infection can spread from the vagina into the urethra.
Complications due to diabetes
- Due to low circulation of blood, blurred vision occurs
- If the person gets hurt in the foot, he/she may not even know that there is an injury that needs to be treated. (Happens because of the damaged nerves, the sensation is lost/decreased). The wound doesn’t heal like it should because the damaged blood vessels don’t carry enough blood to supply the wound with enough oxygen. This can result in amputation of the leg.
- In order to convert fat in the boy, body uses different hormones and that process releases ‘ketoacidosis’ when converting fat into energy. The ketoacidosis releases toxins in the body which are very dangerous.
- Cardio vascular diseases / heart problems. As the blood vessels near the heart also get damaged, that can result in cardiac arrests.
- Due to PCOS problem, it become difficult to get pregnant and miscarriages can occur.
- There can be birth defects in the baby including giving birth to a large baby.
- Kidney diseases can be seen more in women than in men with diabetes.
On the whole, if you think you are having higher sugar levels in the blood (after noticing symptoms), you need to contact a doctor immediately. If you plan to get pregnant in the future, you should surely see a good gynecologist near you so that they can address any gynecology problems too along with treating your diabetes.