Diabetes Signs and Symptoms in Men and Women Definition and Overview
- Diabetes is a disease characterized be elevated levels of blood glucose. Diabetes is equally common in both men and women.
- There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 and 2. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. In type 2 diabetes, the body is resistant to the insulin produced by the pancreas. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin.
- Type 1 diabetes usually is diagnosed during childhood while, type 2 diabetes usually is diagnosed during adulthood.
- Signs and symptoms of type 1 and 2 diabetes in both men and women include:
- Men with diabetes may experience sexual problems like erectile dysfunction (ED, impotence), retrograde ejaculation, and low testosterone (low-T).
- Specific problems that affect women with diabetes include:
- An increased risk for vaginal yeast infections
- Vaginal dryness and reduced sensation
- Decreased sex drive
- An increased risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Complications of diabetes that occur over the long term in both men and women include nerve damage, decreases in vision, kidney damage, and an increased risk of heart disease, vascular disease, and stroke.
What Is Diabetes? What Are Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes?
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder characterized by elevated levels of blood sugar (glucose). Glucose is normally is used as a source of energy for the body. The hormone insulin, produced by the pancreas, is necessary for the body’s cells to utilize glucose for energy. Diabetes occurs when the body either does not produce any or enough insulin, or becomes resistant to the insulin that is produced.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is the less-common form of diabetes. It occurs because the body’s immune system attacks the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin, resulting in an insufficient amount of insulin. Type 1 diabetes was formerly referred to as juvenile diabetes because it most often is most is diagnosed in childhood. Treatment for this type of diabetes involves the administration of insulin in injection form.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is far more common than type 1. It accounts for about 85% of cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes was formerly referred to as adult-onset diabetes because it most often is diagnosed in adults. However, the incidence of type 2 diabetes in children and teens has been increasing due to dietary factors and the rise in childhood obesity.
Type 2 diabetes occurs because the body has become resistant to the insulin produced by the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes primarily is treated with dietary and lifestyle changes, and if necessary, medications.
Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, and the rise in obesity rates has led to an increasing number of people with diabetes. Other risk factors for type 2 diabetes include a sedentary lifestyle, family history of the condition, and eating a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates low in fiber and whole grains.
Prediabetes is a condition in which the blood glucose levels are high, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. Prediabetes is a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes.
Which Early Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes in Men and Women Are the Same?
The early symptoms of diabetes in men and women tend to be the same. Common early signs and symptoms of diabetes include:
- Frequent urination
- Excessive thirst
- Increased hunger
- Poor healing of wounds
- Blurred vision
- Dry mouth
- Dry, itchy skin
- Unexpected weight loss
- Frequent infections
- Fruity or sweet-smelling breath (more common in type 1)
Which Later Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes in Men and Women Are the Same?
If diabetes is untreated or poorly controlled, the early symptoms can still occur after the disease has been present for years. Other later signs and symptoms develop after diabetes has caused complications, either by damage to the nerves or circulatory system.
Complications of diabetes that occur in both men and women include:
- Numbness, burning, pain, numbness, or tingling of the extremities (diabetic neuropathy)
- Kidney disease (diabetic nephropathy)
- Skin changes including brown spots
- Vision impairment and loss due to retinal damage
- Nausea, vomiting, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), heartburn, and bloating due to damage to the nerves that control digestion
- Increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and vascular disease.
Which Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes Are Unique to Men?
Only men experience certain symptoms of diabetes. These symptoms primarily are sexual problems that develop as a result of the condition. Erectile dysfunction (ED), low testosterone (low T), and retrograde ejaculation are problems that can be related to diabetes in men. ED typically occurs at a younger age in men with diabetes than in the general population. Low T can cause further signs and symptoms that include a decreased libido (sex drive), depression, lack of energy, and a decrease in muscle mass.
Which Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes Are Unique to Women?
Women with diabetes may experience vaginal itching and discomfort or pain. This is due to an increased likelihood of developing an infection with the yeast Candida vaginalis. Vaginal discharge and discomfort associated with sexual intercourse can result from a vaginal yeast infection.
Other sexual problems in women diabetes can be caused by nerve damage or problems with blood flow. This can lead to symptoms like reduced sex drive, problems achieving orgasm, vaginal dryness or irritation, and decreased sensation.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are more common in women than in men. Having diabetes is a risk factor for UTIs because the excess sugar in the urine allows for bacterial growth.
About half of women with the condition known as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) develop diabetes. PCOS is known to cause female infertility and insulin resistance. Signs and symptoms of PCOS can include acne, excess hair growth on the face and body, irregular periods, and thinning scalp hair.
Gestational diabetes is a special type of diabetes that occurs in pregnant women. Usually, it is diagnosed between the 24th and 28th weeks of pregnancy, and is diagnosed when blood sugar levels become too high. Gestational diabetes goes away after the baby is born in most women. However, women who have had gestational diabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
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Is Diabetes More Common in Men or Women?
Type 1 diabetes is equally common in males and females. However, there are certain subgroups in which type 1 diabetes is slightly more likely to occur in males. An example of one of these groups are adolescents of European ancestry who are diagnosed in the teen years. Type 2 diabetes is equally prevalent in men and women in most populations that have been studied.
Is Diabetes Reversible or Curable?
Type 1 diabetes is not reversible. However, in some people, type 2 diabetes and/or prediabetes, the disease can be prevented or reversed by adopting a healthy lifestyle, losing weight, and maintaining healthy eating habits. Moreover, some individuals with diabetes can prevent or delay complications of diabetes by maintaining good control of blood sugar levels through lifestyle changes and medications.
What to Do If You Have Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes
It is important to see your doctor or other healthcare professional if you think you have any of the symptoms of diabetes. Blood glucose levels in males and females and in children and adults can be checked with a simple test. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor or other healthcare professional will develop a plan to help keep your blood sugar levels in control. If diabetes is untreated, it can lead to serious complications like nerve damage, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and kidney disease.
Reviewed on 1/22/2018
American Diabetes Association.