What Causes Diabetes in Men and Women?

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By : dLife Editors

Diabetes is a metabolic condition characterized by high sugar levels in the blood. This happens when the body doesn’t produce enough of the hormone “insulin” or it is not able to use the secreted insulin.

Insulin is secreted by a specialized group of cells from the pancreas called the “β- cells of islet of Langerhans.” Insulin allows the cells to take up glucose from the blood. In people suffering from diabetes, their bodies produce inadequate amounts of insulin or their cells are unable to utilize the produced insulin.

This causes glucose build-up in the in the blood, leading to diabetes. Diabetes, if uncontrolled, lead to the development of various serious and life-threatening complications like heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, coma, and death.

Diabetes can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, race or lifestyle. The exact cause of diabetes is not known. Various contributing factors have been suggested, some of which are seen commonly in both men and women and some that differ between the genders. Let’s discuss the causative factors in men and women.

Causes of Diabetes in Women:

Type 1 Diabetes

  • In women with type 1 diabetes, their body doesn’t produce required amounts of insulin. Type 1 diabetes occurs when their body’s immune system false fully destroys the insulin-producing β- cells. The interplay of triggering familial genes and environment make such women more susceptible to the development of the condition. It shows incidence mostly in young girls close to puberty.

Type 2 Diabetes

  • In women with type 2 diabetes, insulin is produced in required amounts, but their cells are not able to use it effectively to take up the glucose from the blood. It’s also known as “diabetes mellitus.” It’s the more commonly seen than type 1 and is caused by various factors such as:
  • Women older than 45 years of age
  • Overweight and obesity
  • A family history of the condition
  • High blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Less physical exercise
  • Smoking
  • Having gestational diabetes
  • Belonging to the African American, Hispanic or Scandinavian ethnicities.
  • Having a history of heart disease, stroke, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

Type 3 diabetes

Women also suffer from a third type known as gestational diabetes where a diabetes-like condition develops in pregnant women with no prior history of the condition. It’s caused by hormonal changes along with genetic and lifestyle factors. Although type 3 diabetes usually goes away after delivery, it poses the mother at a risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the later stages of life.

Diabetes affects women differently than men. Recent studies have reported the more occurrence of complications and death in women with diabetes as compared to men. The reasons for this predilection are:

  • The bodies of both men and women are different amounting to the differences in the behavior of the disease
  • Women with diabetes are at a higher risk for diabetic complications like heart attacks, kidney failure, blindness, depression due to physiological, hormonal and psychological differences
  • Women have more hormonal fluctuations occurring during menstrual cycles, pregnancy and menopause
  • A difference in the presentation of complications that more silent and severe in women
  • Women receive less aggressive treatment than men as they pose higher risk for complications and also partly due psychological, social differences
  • Lower survival and poorer quality of life for women.

Causes of Diabetes in Men:

Type 1 Diabetes

The cause of type 1 diabetes in men is identical to women. It is an autoimmune disease where the pancreas produces very little or no insulin. The predilection for familial inheritance and certain environmental factors is similar to women.

Type 2 Diabetes

Similar to women, type 2 diabetes develops in men when their body cannot use the insulin produced causing high sugar levels in the blood. Risk factors are:

  • Age in the mid-forties
  • Obesity
  • Smoking and alcohol
  • High blood pressure and cholesterol
  • History of heart attacks or stroke
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Ethnicity – increased risk for Asians, Hispanics and African Americans.

Hence a similar pathology for the occurrence of diabetes is found in men and women. The slight variations arise primarily due to physiological and hormonal differences in both the genders.


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