Women and Diabetic Complications
- Cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease, the most common complication attributable to diabetes, is more serious among women than men. Deaths from heart disease in women with diabetes have increased 23% over the past 30 years, compared to a 27% decrease in women without diabetes.
- Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). The risk of diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is 50 percent higher among women than men. DKA, often called diabetic coma, is a condition brought on by poorly controlled diabetes and marked by high blood glucose levels and ketones (by-products of fat metabolism in the blood). Although it is accompanied by high blood glucose levels, DKA is not caused by high blood sugar; it is caused by lack of insulin. Before insulin therapy was available, DKA was the predominant cause of death from diabetes.
- Peripheral vascular disease (PVD). Women with diabetes are 7.6 times as likely to suffer peripheral vascular disease (PVD) than women without diabetes. PVD is a disorder resulting in reduced flow of blood and oxygen to tissues in the feet and legs. The principal symptom of PVD is intermittent claudication (pain in the thigh, calf, or buttocks during exercise).
What Is Needed?
In ideal circumstances, women with diabetes will have their disease under good control and be monitored frequently by a health care team knowledgeable in the care of diabetes.
- Patient education is critical. People with diabetes, with the help of their health care providers, can reduce their risk for complications if they are educated about their disease, learn and practice the skills necessary to better control their blood glucose levels, as well as blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and receive regular checkups from their health care team. Smokers should stop smoking, and overweight women with diabetes should develop moderate exercise regimens under the guidance of a health care provider to help them achieve a healthy weight.
- Health care team education is vital. Because people with diabetes have a multi-system chronic disease, they are best monitored and managed by highly skilled health care professionals trained with the latest information on diabetes to help ensure early detection and appropriate treatment of the serious complications of the disease. A team approach to treating and monitoring the complex facets of this systemic disease serves the best interests of the patient.
Excerpted and adapted from "Take Time to Care About Diabetes: Women and Diabetes Fact Sheet" – U.S. FDA
Reviewed by Francine Kaufman, MD. 4/08
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