Some of the symptoms of diabetes mellitus are commonly known and can help alert you to get the right diagnostic tests done. However, diabetes is an endocrine condition that may lead to complex interplay with other hormones, especially the female reproductive hormones.
In diabetes, the body cannot utilize glucose to produce energy adequately, which means that the body is not nourished properly. This can affect the menstrual cycle, making it irregular i.e. delayed or even missed periods. In fact, research conducted by the Journal of the American Medical Association says that unusually long, extremely irregular, or infrequent menstrual cycles may be linked to insulin resistance and thus may be one of the early symptoms of diabetes.
Some researchers have hypothesized that irregular periods are indicative that the ovaries are responding to changes in metabolism and hence cannot function normally. These metabolic changes gradually increase a woman’s risk of insulin resistance, which over time may lead to type 2 diabetes.
Some reproductive symptoms are:
• Period cycles of 40+ days or less than 21 days.
• Missed periods.
• Delayed periods.
• Unusually or extremely heavy flow.
• Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Often,we tend to brush off such prediabetes symptoms as “stressful times” or “just a miss.”It is therefore important for women to know their menstrual cycle well and look out for unusual aberrations. The first step is to be armed with the knowledge about how diabetes and your menstrual cycle are related.
Diabetes and the Menstrual Cycle
A woman sees great ups and downs in reproductive hormones through the month. These hormones also serve to control the blood glucose levels along with insulin.
Typically, most women undergo a rise in blood glucose level the week prior to menstruation, just after ovulation. The blood sugar levels then tend to drop and return to normal once menstruation begins. This fluctuation can make it difficult for women with diabetes to regulate their blood sugar levels.Therefore, it becomes crucial for women to recognize monthly patterns to be able to manage them well.
Diabetes during pregnancy
Also called gestational diabetes, this is a form of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy, but usually disappears after childbirth. The symptoms are similar to the symptoms of type 2 diabetes i.e. excess urination, excessive thirst, tiredness and fatigue, nausea, and blurred vision.
As a woman, you may tend to confuse these symptoms as typical pregnancy symptoms. So, if you experience two or more simultaneously, get your doctor to look into the matter from a diabetes perspective.
Irregular menstruation obviously does not serve as a warning signal in this case in the absence of menstruation. Chances of gestational diabetes may be higher if you are older than 35, obese, or have had the condition in previous pregnancies.
Women with irregular menstrual cycles,or in pregnancy must ask to undergo tests for diabetes.
• Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (OGTT): This test can be used to diagnose both prediabetes and diabetes, and is often used to detect gestational diabetes. It measures how well your body is able to use glucose. You are required to fast for 8 hours before undergoing the test.
The normal range for fasting blood sugarlies between 3.9 to 5.5 mmols/l (70 to 100 mg/dl). A fasting blood sugar level from 100 to 125 mg/dL (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L) is considered prediabetes. A level of 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) or higher in two separate tests, indicates diabetes.
A similar test is carried out without fasting too. A random blood sugar level of 200 mg/dL (11.1 mmol/L) or higher suggests diabetes, which is the glucose level no matter when you ate last.
• Hba1c Test: HbA1c is a form of haemoglobin that is bound to glucose. The test reflects how well diabetes is controlled because it indicates blood sugar levels over the past 6-8 weeks. The normal range level for haemoglobin A1c is less than 6%.
Take Action now!
Having a pre-indicator is in a way a good thing- you are wellinformed in advance before the onset of the condition and can make the necessary lifestyle changes to prevent diabetes in the future.
So, if you have been suffering from irregular periods, raise the red flag and consult your health care practitioner for making healthy lifestyle changes.
Simple yet conscious life changes like following a balanced and healthy diet, regular exercise, and stress-management can work wonders in preventing the onset of full-blown type 2 diabetes. You may be bowled over by the question of “how to control diabetes” and the answer lies in consistent discipline and devotion to a healthy way of life.