A lifestyle disorder, diabetes is a global epidemic. According to Dr Geeth Monnappa, senior consultant (obstetrics and gynecology) at Fortis Hospital, Richmond Road, Bengaluru, it is important to understand the range of abnormalities that women with diabetes encounter. “We have known for long that systemic disorders like anemia, hypertension and diabetes have an effect on the menstrual cycle,” she said.
Menstrual abnormalities with diabetes
Type 2 diabetes
Dr Monnappa explained that women with longer intervals between two periods, or those who have delayed periods, are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
“In addition to delayed periods, these women tend to be obese and lead a sedentary lifestyle, which adds to their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Women with polycystic ovarian syndrome tend to have delayed periods and an increase in facial and body hair. Insulin resistance — the main problem in polycystic ovarian syndrome — leads to increase in the male hormone production from the ovarian theca cells leading to an increase in facial/body hair,” she said.
The doctor added that insulin resistance puts them at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the future.
“Several studies have shown irregular periods, sedentary lifestyle and obesity have an additive effect, increasing an individual’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
“This emphasises on the need to negate the risk by regularising the menstrual cycle by a combination of lifestyle modification — such as a healthy diet and regular exercise — and medication,” the expert mentioned.
Studies have shown women with type 1 diabetes tend to have delayed puberty/first period, heavy menstrual flow and delayed cycles. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)
Type 1 diabetes
According to Dr Monnappa, studies have shown women with type 1 diabetes — a condition often diagnosed between the ages of 10 years and 15 years — tend to have delayed puberty/first period, heavy menstrual flow and delayed cycles. “These women may find it difficult to get pregnant, have multiple abortions and stillbirths and attain menopause earlier than usual.”
How to reduce the risk?
1. Make menstrual cycles regular: Women with period delays lasting 3 months or more need to consult a gynecologist to regularise their periods.
2. Healthy diet: A diet rich in fibre, healthy carbohydrates (whole grains, vegetables, low fat milk products and certain fruits), fish and good fats (avocados and nuts) in consultation with a dietician will help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in women with PCOS.
3. Exercise: Aerobic exercises like walking, cycling, jogging, dancing and swimming, greatly improve insulin resistance and help regularise periods in women with PCOS, improve their chances at a natural pregnancy and reduce their risk of developing diabetes in the future. One-hundred-and-fifty hours of moderate-intensity exercise per week is recommended to reduce the risks of diabetes and cardiovascular disorders.