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Type 2

Type 2 Diabetes and Gender Differences

12/11/2021 by mySugr

Type 2 Diabetes and Gender Differences

Data shows that men with diabetes – specifically type 2 diabetes – are more likely to receive a diagnosis than women are.[i] However, research indicates that women who have diabetes are more likely to experience complications than men.[ii] That’s because diabetes affects men and women in different ways throughout their life. Here’s a closer look at some of the gender differences in diabetes, as well as some of the reasons for them.

Risk Factor Roles

Lifestyle is a huge risk factor for diabetes in women and men. Smoking, lack of activity, and poor diet all increase the risk of diabetes. But the one difference in risk factors is weight.

Men usually are diagnosed with diabetes at a lower weight or body mass index (BMI). Women generally are diagnosed at higher weights and BMIs. This may be because women carry fat tissue in different areas and are more likely to be metabolically healthy even when diagnosed with obesity.[iii]

Gender Differences in Diabetes-related Complications

If women are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they have a higher risk of experiencing diabetes-related complications than men do.[iv] Some of these complications include:

  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Heart disease

For women with diabetes, the risk of heart disease increases almost six-fold compared to women without diabetes. Women who have diabetes also have worse outcomes after heart attacks.[v] Women are often less likely to recognize the signs of a heart attack or delay treatment. That makes it more difficult to recover.

Women-Only Risk Factors for Diabetes

Certain conditions that only occur in women can be additional risk factors for diabetes. One example is polycystic ovary syndrome. This hormonal disorder causes enlarged ovaries that have small cysts on them. Having this condition can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.[vi]

Another woman-only risk factor for type 2 diabetes is having gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a kind of diabetes that occurs in pregnant women who didn’t have diabetes before they were pregnant. While it usually ends after pregnancy, it does increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.

Reproductive and Sexual Health and Diabetes

Diabetes affects reproductive and sexual health in both men and women. But studies show that more than 78% of women who have type 2 diabetes report some type of sexual dysfunction.[vii]

Common forms of sexual dysfunction reported in women with type 2 diabetes include:

  • Low sexual satisfaction
  • Lower sex drive
  • Vaginal dryness, which may lead to painful or uncomfortable sex
  • Difficulty being aroused
  • Difficulty achieving orgasm

Additional reproductive and sexual health issues women with diabetes often experience include:

  1. Urinary Tract and Yeast Infections – Women with diabetes have a higher risk of UTIs and yeast infections. High blood sugar levels may be responsible for increasing the risk. To prevent yeast and urinary tract infections, work to keep blood sugar levels in your target range. Drinking plenty of water, urinating often, and wearing cotton underwear can help, too.
  1. Menstrual Cycle Changes – Hormone levels change before and during your period. These changes can make it difficult to predict blood sugar levels. Check blood sugar often and track results to see if you find a pattern. Talk to your healthcare provider about taking more insulin if needed during the days before your period.
  1. Birth Control – If you don’t want to become pregnant or you want to ensure your blood sugar levels are in your target range first, talk to your doctor about birth control. Your physician can help you determine which option is right for you.
  1. Menopause – As the body makes less estrogen, you could experience more ups and downs in blood sugar levels during menopause. Hot flashes or weight gain during menopause could make managing blood sugar harder. Discuss your symptoms with your doctor and work with your care team to determine if you need to change the dosage of your diabetes medicines.

Being Proactive, No Matter Your Gender

Gender differences in diabetes do exist. However, it’s important to be proactive about your health no matter your gender. Focus on living a healthy lifestyle and working with your care team to manage your diabetes. Get active, eat a healthy diet, and follow your treatment plan. This will all help you reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications, no matter your gender.










The mySugr website does not provide medical or legal advice. mySugr blog articles are not scientific articles, but intended for informational purposes only.
Medical or nutritional information on the mySugr website is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always consult a physician or health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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