Diabetes And The Menopause – What To Expect.
Menopause is the phase of life after your periods have stopped and your oestrogen levels decline. In some women, menopause can occur as a result of surgery, when the ovaries are removed for other medical reasons.
Diabetes and menopause effects on your body, including:
- Changes in blood sugar level. The hormones oestrogen and progesterone affect how your cells respond to insulin. After menopause, changes in your hormone levels can trigger fluctuations in your blood sugar level. You may notice that your blood sugar level is more variable and less predictable than before. If your blood sugar gets out of control, you have a higher risk of diabetes complications.
- Weight gain. Some women gain weight during the menopausal transition and after menopause. This can increase the need for insulin or oral diabetes medication.
- Infections. Even before menopause, high blood sugar levels can contribute to urinary tract and vaginal infections. After menopause — when a drop in oestrogen makes it easier for bacteria and yeast to thrive in the urinary tract and vagina — the risk is even higher.
- Sleep problems. After menopause, hot flushes and night sweats may keep you up at night. In turn, the sleep deprivation can make it tougher to manage your blood sugar level.
- Sexual problems. Diabetes can damage the nerves of the cells that line the vagina. This can interfere with arousal and orgasm. Vaginal dryness, a common symptom of menopause, may compound the issue by causing pain during sex.
- Leg Cramps / Heavy Legs. Leg cramp pain during menopause can come on suddenly. It can be a shooting, sharp pain that can disturb your sleep, or wake you up. This pain may linger and make the area sore for almost 24 hours.
- Brain Fog. Many women also report feeling forgetful or having a general “brain fog” that makes it hard to concentrate. Memory issues are part of menopause. And this “brain fog” is more common than you might think.
Diabetes And The Menopause – What You Can Do
Menopause can wreak havoc on your diabetes control. But there’s plenty you can do to better manage diabetes and menopause.
- Make healthy lifestyle choices. Healthy lifestyle choices — such as eating healthy foods and exercising regularly — are the cornerstone of your diabetes treatment plan. Healthy foods and regular physical activity can help you feel your best after menopause, too.
- Measure your blood sugar frequently. You may need to check your blood sugar level more often than usual during the day, and occasionally during the night. Keep a log of your blood sugar readings and symptoms. Your doctor may use the details to adjust your diabetes treatment plan as needed.
- Ask your doctor about adjusting your diabetes medications. If your average blood sugar level increases, you may need to increase the dosage of your diabetes medications or begin taking a new medication — especially if you gain weight or reduce your level of physical activity. Likewise, if your average blood sugar level decreases, you may need to reduce the dosage of your diabetes medications.
- Ask your doctor about cholesterol-lowering medications. If you have diabetes, you’re at increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The risk increases even more when you reach menopause. To reduce the risk, eat healthy foods and exercise regularly. Your doctor may recommend cholesterol-lowering medication if you’re not already taking it.
- Seek help for menopausal symptoms. If you’re struggling with hot flushes, vaginal dryness, decreased sexual response or other menopausal symptoms, remember that treatment is available. For example, your doctor may recommend a vaginal lubricant to restore vaginal moisture or vaginal oestrogen therapy to correct thinning and inflammation of the vaginal walls (vaginal atrophy). Your doctor may also recommend hormone replacement therapy to alleviate the symptoms if you have no contraindications for this therapy.
- Leg Cramps. Many women report that massaging or stretching the leg helps when they get a cramp. It is good to consult with your doctor, check your bone density and bring yourself up to date with your daily calcium supplements. Leg cramps can also be treated with continuous intake of calcium/magnesium supplements. Other complementary therapies include (other therapies here) reported to also be helpful.
- Brain Fog. In many women, menopause “brain fog” may be mild and go away on its own with time. More severe memory issues may cause you to neglect your personal hygiene, forget the name of familiar objects, or have difficulty following directions.
Once your doctor has ruled out other issues, like dementia, you may explore menopausal hormone therapy (MHT). This treatment involves taking either low-dose oestrogen or a combination of oestrogen and progestin. These hormones may help with the many symptoms you experience during menopause, not just memory loss.
- Weight Gain. If weight gain is a problem, a registered dietitian can help you revise your meal plans. For some women, hormone therapy may be a good option.
Having diabetes while going through menopause can be a challenge. Work closely with your endocrinology team to ease the transition.
The content provided in this article should be used for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.
Always seek the advice of a relevant professional with any questions about any health decision you are seeking to make.