Gender gap: Women living with diabetes end up facing social stigma | sex and relationships | Hindustan Times
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Gender gap: Women living with diabetes end up facing social stigma

Women often receive less aggressive treatment for conditions related to diabetes than men. The complications and warning signs in women are also more difficult to diagnose, thus delaying treatment.

sex and relationships Updated: Nov 12, 2017 11:51 IST
Nearly half of those affected by diabetes are women, in a population of 1.21 billion.
Nearly half of those affected by diabetes are women, in a population of 1.21 billion.(Shutterstock)

Diabetes, earlier considered a disorder affecting only the rich and affluent, is spreading its wings to include 70 million people in India today, both in urban and rural areas. Nearly half of those affected by this condition are women, in a population of 1.21 billion. What further exacerbates this situation is the fact that this condition is the reason for stigmatisation of women in the country.

Women living with diabetes face many problems, both physically and mentally. It can increase the risk of complications, particularly in women. What is unique about this disease is that it affects both mothers and the unborn child. Women often receive less aggressive treatment for conditions related to diabetes than men. The complications and warning signs in women are also often more difficult to diagnose, thus delaying treatment and leading to premature mortality.

Dr Sanjay Kalra — Consultant Endocrinologist, Bharti Hospital Karnal and Vice President, South Asian Federation of Endocrine Societies, said, “Women with high body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, waist-hip ratio, systolic blood pressure, fasting glucose, and cholesterol are more at risk of developing diabetes. Women diagnosed with diabetes not only undergo mental and psychological trauma but are also stigmatised in Indian society, particularly if they fall in the marriageable age group.”

He adds, “Women with diabetes may face difficulties in getting married due to the lack of awareness about the condition. There may be doubts about future family life, pregnancy, ability to perform household chores, and the cost of treatment. All of this can lead to the disorder not being disclosed by the girl’s family.”

Complications arising out of diabetes such as vaginal yeast infections and thrush, polycystic ovarian syndrome, sexual dysfunction, and urinary tract infections can make this problem worse. Lack of support and adequate care can result in poor metabolic control, higher complication rates, increased healthcare costs, lost productivity, lower quality of life, as well as increased risk of death.

“Though the symptoms of diabetes in women are similar to those in men, some of them are unique. Understanding these can help in timely diagnosis and treatment of the condition. There is a need to raise awareness of the fact that women can live a perfectly normal life with certain lifestyle changes and be able to conceive and deliver a healthy child. Women should get their blood sugar tested frequently, exercise regularly, and get healthy carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables to prevent the risk of diabetes,” says Dr Kalra.

Regular monitoring and consulting the doctor, support groups for women and facilities for physical activity are measures that can help. Prevention and control programmes need to be tailored for women.

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