We Are Women with Diabetes
The obstacles we can overcome.
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
March 2011 — Testing blood glucose, counting carbohydrates, supporting each other with diabetes. All such easy tasks when two people with diabetes live in the same house, as has been the case the past six years in mine.
One key difference cannot be overcome, however, beyond that which dictates who lives with type 1 and who lives with type 2. Simply put, men and women deal with different challenges concerning blood glucose fluctuations influenced by different hormones. This is something I do have in common with other women with diabetes my age, no matter type 1 or type 2: An unpredictability of the menstrual cycle's effect on blood glucose.
Soon after my type 2 diabetes diagnosis, I learned that all that estrogen and progesterone floating around during the menstrual cycle impacted so much more than that reproductive system of mine. I could eat a 40-gram carbohydrate meal mid-cycle and return a blood glucose reading well within the ideal range determined in cooperation with my endocrinologist. I would eat that same meal during pre-menstrual syndrome or during my period and see numbers well above range. Yet, this was never explained by any doctor, any certified diabetes educator, any book. I learned about women with diabetes and issues we have to face all through my own trial and error, along with participating in online diabetes communities.
Going further than that, it does not matter if we are going through puberty, or experiencing menopause, or currently menstruating regularly. It doesn't matter if we're preventing pregnancy through the use of hormonal birth control, or experiencing the joys of pregnancy, or providing our children sustenance through breastfeeding. We all face unpredictability throughout our lives as women with diabetes. What works one week in regards to diet, exercise, medication, and insulin dosing might not work the next; what works one year might not work the following.
Not to dismiss the blood glucose fluctuations that arise in men over time, of course, but this unpredictability shows in some of the statistics of diabetes-related complications in women. Cardiovascular disease may be more fatal in women compared to men with pre-existing diabetes, and almost certainly occurs more in women with diabetes than in women without. Diabetic ketoacidosis rates are much higher in women with type 1 diabetes than men with the same condition.
Then there are the "unmentionable" complications. Can we say, yeast infection???
And while we hear so often of male erectile dysfunction caused by diabetes, there is little to be said of the effects that blood glucose fluctuation can have on women with diabetes during our most intimate moments.
That is why I find the work that www.DiabetesSisters.org is doing so important: Educating and empowering women with diabetes. From practical health-related issues to legal issues, it is all there for us to learn and to discuss with each other on the website, or in person with conference sessions a couple times per year.
While there are other venues to explore women's issues with diabetes, even around here in the dLife forums, community, and archives, being able to nod and agree with each other in person is even more empowering. I cannot wait to step into the conference in Raleigh in a few weeks to be with so many women who understand life as a woman with diabetes, regardless of life's circumstance or diabetes type.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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