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Dr. Tariq Tanoli, St. Luke's Hospital

Diabetes poses unique challenges for women

Blood sugar, or glucose, is the main source of energy for our bodies. It helps us perform everyday tasks such as walking, running or taking care of chores around the house. Blood sugar levels are associated with the types of food we eat, mainly those with carbohydrates, and the pancreas produces insulin to help manage the levels of blood sugar in the body. As our blood sugar rises, the pancreas works hard to keep it at a manageable level.

Those with diabetes do not produce enough insulin, or their body has built up a resistance to it. Basically, there are three types of diabetes - Type 1 where the body either does not produce insulin or makes too little of it, Type 2 which usually occurs in adulthood and gestational diabetes which occurs during pregnancy in women who have no previous diagnosis. According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 25.8 million people, or 8.3 percent of the U.S. population, have diabetes. An estimated 79 million American adults have pre-diabetes, a condition where blood sugar levels rise above recommended levels. Pre-diabetes is a serious condition - it can lead to the development of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Women have unique challenges when dealing with diabetes. This is especially true for African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian and Asian/Pacific Islander women as they are at least two to four times more likely to develop diabetes in their lifetimes than Caucasian women. As mentioned previously, a woman can develop gestational diabetes during pregnancy which can affect her pregnancy and the health of her baby. In addition, many women with diabetes report having intimacy issues following a diabetes diagnosis. In a landmark study conducted in the 1980s, nearly half of the women studied reported having some kind of problem that interfered with their sexual lives.

Symptoms associated with diabetes include blurry vision, excessive thirst, fatigue, frequent urination, hunger and weight loss. It is important to get regular check-ups with your doctor to record and monitor blood sugar levels and to treat diabetes as soon as possible. If left untreated, it can affect the health of your eyes, kidneys, nerves and blood vessels.

Dr. Tariq Tanoli specializes in taking care of patients with endocrinology, metabolism and lipid disorders at St. Luke's Hospital. To register for a free diabetes event on November 14, 2012, call 314-542-4848 or visit the event page .

This article was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on November 1, 2012.