Diabetes is a disease that causes sugar levels in the blood to be too high. It may affect women differently to men.

What is diabetes

Normally sugar (glucose) levels in your blood are regulated by a hormone called insulin. Diabetes occurs when there are problems with insulin and how it works in your body. There are different types of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is the most common. It’s called a ‘lifestyle disease’ because the cause is associated with being overweight or obese.

Diabetes is a ‘silent epidemic’ because it doesn’t always cause symptoms straight away. Around 500,000 women in Australia have been diagnosed with diabetes, but it’s estimated another 400,000 don’t realise they have it. Many won’t notice they have diabetes until it causes complications.


Complications that affect both women and men include diseases of the kidneys, eyes, nerves, heart and blood vessels.

However, recent research has found that women with type 2 diabetes may experience more heart disease, stroke (blocked or bleeding blood vessel in the brain) and depression compared to men. The reasons still aren’t clear, but a possible cause may be unique aspects of women’s biology.

Women with diabetes also have gender-specific complications such as increased vaginal thrush (yeast infection) and sexual health problems like painful intercourse.

Check for diabetes

Don’t wait until you have diabetes symptoms, which can include: more than usual tiredness, thirst and passing urine; slow-healing wounds; and itching and skin infections, particular around the genitals.

You may need to see your GP for a check up if you have known diabetes risk factors such as:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Low levels of physical activity
  • Unhealthy eating habits
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Diabetes during a past pregnancy

For more information: Speak to your GP, Visit www.health.gov.au see the ‘Diabetes Risk Assessment Tool’

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