Menopause and Diabetes: What Is the Relationship?

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Menopause and diabetes are both conditions that often occur in midlife. Menopause causes lower estrogen levels and results at the end of the menstrual period. Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how the body uses energy. 

These two conditions are related as the hormonal changes during menopause can lead to an increased risk of diabetes. If you already have diabetes, menopause can also make it harder to manage. It’s important to note that menopause, in and of itself, does not cause diabetes.

This article discusses the connection between menopause and diabetes and their treatment options.

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Connection Between Menopause and Diabetes 

Menopause and diabetes tend to occur around the same phase of life, and researchers have examined the connections between the two conditions. During menopause, several changes occur, and some of these changes can affect your risk of diabetes. 

Menopause usually begins in an individual’s 40s or 50s and indicates the end of menstrual periods. Type 2 diabetes typically starts after a person turns 45. During menopause, estrogen levels drop, the ovaries stop producing eggs, and the menstrual period ends.

Menopause causes a sharp decrease in estrogen levels in the body, leading to various changes that can affect body weight, fat distribution, and insulin sensitivity. These changes can raise your risk of type 2 diabetes. The changes can also make managing your diabetes more challenging. 

Risks

Menopause itself has not been found to raise the risk of diabetes. However, it can affect how our body uses blood sugar (glucose). Menopause may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes because of the following changes:

  • Hormonal changes: Estrogen and progesterone affect how cells respond to the hormone insulin. When estrogen and progesterone levels drop, cells may not be as sensitive to insulin. This can lead to high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). 
  • Blood sugar fluctuations: Hormonal changes can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate throughout the day. This can make managing type 2 diabetes a challenge.
  • Weight gain: Menopause is commonly associated with weight gain, and excess weight is a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes. 
  • Disturbed sleep: Menopause can lead to restless sleep due to night sweats and other discomforts. A lack of sleep has been linked with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. 
  • Depression: Depression is more common during menopause than before it. People who are depressed may have an increased risk of diabetes because being depressed often leads to exercising less and eating more. 

Preexisting diabetes may worsen menopausal symptoms. Following menopause, individuals are at a higher risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs) and vaginal infections because of low estrogen levels. High blood glucose levels, typically seen in diabetes, also raise the risk of infection.

Menopause may cause painful sexual intercourse due to hormonal changes that lead to vaginal dryness. Diabetes may damage nerve cells in the vagina, contributing to pain.

Talk with your healthcare provider about your insulin dosage if you have already been diagnosed with diabetes when you begin menopause. The hormonal changes cause fluctuations in blood glucose levels, and your insulin dose may need to be adjusted.

Treatment and Management of Diabetes With Menopause

The standard treatment for menopause is hormone therapy (HT). HT works by supplementing estrogen and other hormones that decline during menopause. It is often used in individuals with significant menopausal symptoms such as vaginal dryness, hot flashes, and night sweats. In addition to improving symptoms, HT may also protect against osteoporosis. 

HT may lower your diabetes risk as well. Taking an estrogen supplement has been found to lower fasting glucose levels. It has also been proven to reduce insulin resistance (when your cells no longer respond well to insulin and can't take up glucose from the blood) and decrease fat in the abdominal area.

Healthy lifestyle changes that will improve your management of diabetes include:

  • Exercising everyday
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating a healthy diet 

HT comes with risks and is not for everyone. It may increase the risk of stroke, blood clots, heart attacks, and certain cancers. 

Prevention

Menopause is not preventable. It will occur in everyone who menstruates. However, it is possible to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. This is especially important during and after menopause when the risk increases due to age and other factors. 

Prevention strategies for type 2 diabetes include:

  • Screening: If you are at an increased risk of diabetes, you may be able to catch the condition early when it is considered prediabetes. Prediabetes can be reversed with treatment and lifestyle changes.
  • Healthy lifestyle: A healthy diet and daily exercise are highly effective at preventing type 2 diabetes. 
  • Hormone therapy (HT): Taking HT during menopause may be linked with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

Summary

Menopause and diabetes often start in a person’s 40s or 50s. While menopause will impact anyone who menstruates, type 2 diabetes may be preventable. Menopause causes hormonal changes, which affect how the body uses blood glucose and insulin. The bodily changes during and after menopause may raise the risk of diabetes.

Menopause can be treated with hormone therapy (HT). This treatment has potential complications, so talk with your healthcare provider.

A Word From Verywell

Going through menopause can significantly affect every aspect of your life. If you are already at risk of diabetes, going through menopause may raise your risk. Talk with your healthcare provider about steps that you can take to ease menopause symptoms and lower your diabetes risk. Fortunately, lifestyle factors such as daily exercise and a healthy diet are effective.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Does menopause cause diabetes?

    Menopause on its own does not cause diabetes. However, menopause leads to several changes in the body that can affect your blood sugar and insulin levels. Talk with your healthcare provider about your risk factors and if there are any lifestyle changes, you can make.

  • How is menopause treated?

    Work with your healthcare provider to find suitable treatment options for you. If your menopause symptoms are severe, your provider may recommend hormone therapy (HT). This treatment can improve menopausal symptoms but has been linked with severe side effects.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH
Carrie Madormo, RN, MPH, is a health writer with over a decade of experience working as a registered nurse. She has practiced in a variety of settings including pediatrics, oncology, chronic pain, and public health.