What Are the Signs of Diabetes in Females?

Medically Reviewed By Kelly Wood, MD
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The signs of diabetes can be similar for males and females, including fatigue, frequent urination, extreme thirst, and weight loss. But females may also experience more frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs) and yeast infections. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes can have similar symptoms. However, type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 5–10% of people with diabetes have type 1.

This article explains more about the potential symptoms of diabetes in females, along with the causes of diabetes and treatments.

Signs of diabetes in females

A woman chopping up food with her family
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Sex and gender exist on a spectrum. This article uses the terms “female,” “male,” or both to refer to the sex assigned at birth. 

Learn more about the difference between sex and gender.

If you are a female with diabetes, you will experience many of the same symptoms as a male. However, some diabetes symptoms can be specific to people who have female reproductive systems.

For instance, some of the symptoms a female may experience with diabetes include:

Understanding these unique symptoms can help you identify diabetes early and seek effective treatment.

Yeast infections

Thrush infections are common in females with diabetes. They are more likely to occur if your blood glucose levels are high, which untreated diabetes can lead to.

A yeast fungus called Candida albicans is already present in your body. Sometimes, it can cause yeast, vaginal, and oral infections. An oral infection appears as a white film on your tongue.

Symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection can include:

Learn more about vaginal yeast infection symptoms.

UTIs

The risk of contracting a urinary tract infection is higher if you have a female reproductive system and diabetes. High blood sugar levels can allow more bacteria into your body. A UTI can happen when bacteria enter your urinary tract.

Symptoms of a UTI can include:

  • pain during urination
  • cloudy or bloody urine
  • burning sensations during urination
  • feeling like you have to urinate more frequently, even if your bladder is empty

If a UTI goes untreated, the infection may travel to your kidney, which can cause more severe complications. If you experience any of the above symptoms, seek advice from your doctor. They can test for a UTI and prescribe antibiotics.

Sexual dysfunction

Over time, unmanaged diabetes can lead to diabetic neuropathy. Poor blood circulation damages the nerves and leads to a loss of sensory function in the genital area. This can cause dryness and pain during penetrative sex and sex acts.

The impact of diabetes on sexual function needs more research. There is a significant gap in examining female sexual dysfunction compared to male sexual dysfunction.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

PCOS occurs if you have higher levels of the male hormones androgens. These hormones can stop eggs from being released from the ovaries.

PCOS can impact your body’s ability to use insulin effectively, leading to high blood sugar.

Some symptoms of PCOS include:

According to the CDC, more than half of people with PCOS develop type 2 diabetes by age 40.

General symptoms of diabetes

In addition to the above symptoms, the following diabetes symptoms can occur in anyone, regardless of sex or gender:

Type 1 diabetes can have rapid onset symptoms in a matter of weeks. Type 2 diabetes often develops more slowly over time, with many not noticing symptoms until their disorder causes other health conditions, such as blurred vision.

If you experience these symptoms, contact your doctor.

Prediabetes

Before developing diabetes, people can have prediabetes. With prediabetes, blood sugar levels are higher than they should be. About 1 in 3 people in the United States have prediabetes.

Prediabetes usually develops into type 2 diabetes. In some people, diet and lifestyle changes can stop or reverse prediabetes.

In many cases, there are no clear symptoms of prediabetes. Generally, you will not notice symptoms until type 2 diabetes develops. However, some risk factors could mean you should talk with your doctor about prediabetes.

These include:

  • being overweight
  • being age 45 years or older
  • having PCOS
  • a history of gestational diabetes during pregnancy
  • low physical activity levels
  • a family history of type 2 diabetes

If you have any risk factors for prediabetes or experience early signs of diabetes, your doctor can test you for abnormal blood sugar levels.

Common tests for diabetes include plasma glucose, which measures the sugar level in your blood. There is also an A1C test, which monitors your blood sugar levels consistently across 3 consecutive months.

Female diabetes complications 

Diabetes can lead to many complications in males and females, including nerve damage, vision problems, kidney damage, and heart disease. However, females with diabetes experience a fourfold increased risk of heart disease.

Also, females with diabetes who have heart attacks have worse outcomes than males.

Females with diabetes are also at an increased risk of the following complications when compared to males:

  • eye damage and blindness
  • foot damage
  • nerve damage
  • depression

Pregnancy and diabetes: Is it safe?

If you have diabetes, work with your doctor to manage your condition during pregnancy. Some people may also experience gestational diabetes, which develops only during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is also a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes later.

You may have a safe pregnancy with diabetes, but it’s important to manage your condition to avoid unnecessary risk to you and the baby.

If you plan to become pregnant or are newly pregnant, speak with your healthcare professional about managing diabetes.

Causes of diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder. Your immune cells attack the pancreas, which produces insulin. Without adequate levels of insulin in your body, your blood sugar rises.

Like many autoimmune disorders, doctors are unsure what causes type 1 diabetes. They think it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors.

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic medical condition that develops over time and is not an autoimmune disorder. Lifestyle factors such as nutrition and other medical conditions affect how type 2 diabetes can develop. You are at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes if you:

  • are older than 45
  • are overweight
  • have had gestational diabetes
  • have high blood pressure
  • have high cholesterol
  • exercise fewer than three times a week
  • have linked conditions such as PCOS

Treatment of diabetes

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor will help you devise a treatment plan for managing your diabetes. Treatment for diabetes includes medication and lifestyle changes, including:

  • insulin therapy
  • metformin to reduce blood glucose
  • exercise and maintaining a moderate weight
  • avoiding smoking
  • eating a balanced diet
  • monitoring your blood sugar

Learn more about diabetes treatment options.

Summary

Diabetes symptoms will usually be similar in both males and females. However, females may experience increased UTIs and yeast infections if they have unmanaged diabetes. Females are also at an increased risk of more severe complications from diabetes, including heart disease, nerve damage, blindness, and depression.

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can be managed with treatment, such as medications to control blood sugar and to help your body use insulin. Also, regular exercise and adhering to a sound nutritional plan are beneficial.

People with diabetes during pregnancy can have safe and healthy pregnancies. Nevertheless, people with diabetes should be aware of the potential complications and work closely with a doctor to manage their condition and minimize health risks.

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Medical Reviewer: Kelly Wood, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Oct 28
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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