Diabetes and menopause: A twin challenge

Diabetes and menopause may team up for varied effects on your body. Here's what to expect — and how to stay in control. By Mayo Clinic Staff

Menopause — and the years leading up to it — may present unique challenges if you have diabetes. But it's not necessarily a one-two punch. First, learn what to expect. Then consider what to do about it.

Diabetes and menopause: What to expect

Menopause is the phase of life after your periods have stopped. Diabetes and menopause may team up for varied effects on your body, including:

  • Changes in blood sugar level. The hormones estrogen 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 or 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 and vaginal infections. After menopause — when a drop in estrogen 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 flashes 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.
Jan. 18, 2012 See more In-depth