October is women’s health awareness month. What should women with diabetes be aware of?
It is always important that we not focus so much on diabetes management that we lose sight of the fact that we still need to manage the rest of our health too.
This means keeping up on screenings and taking the best care of ourselves we can physically and mentally.
For women, this means keeping up with screenings like pap smears and mammograms. Having diabetes doesn’t necessarily raise all our cancer risks, but it can raise risks of ovarian and uterine cancers, so keeping routine screenings and visits with our gynecologists is key to long and healthy lives for women with type 1.
Women with diabetes are also more prone to UTIs and yeast infections than men and those who don’t have diabetes. But did you know that the treatment of these issues may take more medication over a longer period to truly cure the infection rather than just making it asymptomatic? It’s important to discuss this with your prescribers so that you can aggressively treat these issues. After they can also cause big blood sugar raises, which in turn, make the infections harder to treat!
Type 1 diabetes also raises our risk of osteoporosis which is a higher risk for women as well.
Talk to your doctor about when it would be appropriate for you to begin bone density screening.
Any woman with diabetes can tell you that hormones impact our blood sugars.
Tracking cycles and hormonal symptoms along with blood sugars can help us identify these impacts and how to offset them to maintain stability. These changes can show months before menses starts in girls. Meanwhile, did you know that Perimenopause (that time when our reproductive hormones are shifting toward end of menses) can take up to a decade to progress to full cessation of menses?! That is a lot of time to struggle with blood sugar impacts that can be caused by symptoms of menopause (like hot flashes or depressed moods) and can also trigger those symptoms!
Special consideration may also be needed for members of the transgender population.
Be sure to discuss your healthcare needs with a supportive clinician.Cis female persons need to continue most screenings and medical interventions, even post-transition. And Trans women may need to incorporate some screenings into their healthcare routine following initiation of hormone therapy. Gender-expansive persons need to maintain medically appropriate screenings and having open communication with clinicians can be difficult, but is very important.
Don’t forget that cardiovascular health is still the leading cause of death for women and that our symptoms may be different than those stereotypically experienced by men. For women back pain, GI upset, anxiety, shortness of breath, pressure in the chest, and jaw pain are common symptoms of heart attack for women.
As a diabetes educator and nurse, I am privileged to work with our clients not only on their blood sugar management but on improving their overall health. From increasing health literacy to offering a judgment-free space to ask questions and seek information, and of course, helping our patients manage blood sugars through it all, the RNs of IDS are always available to our clients and community.
Alicia’s diverse nursing career has given her experience with a broad range of clients and a variety of health conditions in addition to diabetes. One of her passions is advocating for the needs of her patients, whether it be in overcoming insurance restrictions, obtaining community resources, or coordinating with school systems and medical providers.