Signs of Type 2 Diabetes in Women

Type 2 diabetes is a complex chronic condition that occurs when the body loses its ability to produce and use insulin properly.

Insulin is the most important hormone in sugar metabolism. Suppose insulin cannot reach muscles and target organs. In that case, sugar remains behind in the blood vessels, which is toxic to the blood vessels and surrounding nerves, leading to many health issues and problematic symptoms.

Type 2 diabetes can cause significant complications in women, including heart disease and fertility problems, but identifying symptoms early on and controlling blood sugar is key to preventing serious health problems. 

This article discusses how type 2 diabetes affects women.

A person checking their blood sugar

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Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes in Women

Type 2 diabetes can affect anyone, at any age, but it most commonly occurs in two groups of women, including:

  • Those who are more than 45 years old
  • Those who are overweight or obese

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Women’s Health, 1 in 9 adult women—roughly 15 million women in the United States—are living with diabetes, with the majority of cases being of the type 2 variety. Many more women experience gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that happens only during pregnancy and raises your risk of developing type 2 diabetes later on in life.


This section outlines the symptoms of diabetes and any specific instances women need to be aware of.

General Symptoms

In the early stages of type 2 diabetes, there may be subtle or no signs of illness. Over time, more pronounced symptoms may appear. Common signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes include:

  • Fatigue 
  • Increased hunger
  • Increased thirst (even after drinking water or fluids)
  • Urinating more than usual
  • Changes in vision, including blurry or double vision
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Poor wound healing or sores that are slow to heal
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • More frequent infections due to immune dysfunction (infections range from bacterial and viral respiratory infections to urinary tract and vaginal yeast infections) 

Symptoms Affecting Women

Typically men and women living with diabetes experience similar symptoms, but there are some symptoms that are unique to women. These symptoms are usually associated with infections or sexual dysfunction due to type 2 diabetes and usually go away with early treatment. 

Symptoms unique to women include:

  • Itching, vaginal discharge, or painful sex from infections in the vaginal area, such as yeast infections or vaginal thrush
  • Painful urination, urinary incontinence, or cloudy urine from a urinary tract infection
  • Decreased libido and fertility problems
  • Weight gain, irregular periods, acne, and infertility from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

Complications for Women

This section outlines the potential type 2 diabetes complications women can face.

Heart Disease

Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease. Not only does type 2 diabetes double the risk of heart disease, but women with type 2 diabetes tend to develop heart disease earlier in life. Other risk factors for diabetes and heart disease include:

  • Obesity
  • Family history
  • Lack of exercise
  • History of PCOS

Of note, women living with diabetes who have heart disease are more likely to have “silent” heart attacks and atypical symptoms such as cardiac pain in the jaw, back, or neck. 

Yeast Infections

Poorly controlled diabetes can create an environment that encourages Candida growth—a benign fungus that normally lives on the skin—in the vaginal region of the body.

In normal conditions, Candida growth is inhibited by the immune system, but in the presence of chronically high blood sugar levels, the immune system is weakened, leading to a yeast infection.

Symptoms include:

  • Burning
  • Itching
  • Skin irritation in the vaginal area
  • White or yellowish vaginal discharge

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)

Women with PCOS—an endocrine disorder in which the ovaries overproduce androgens, hormones that typically circulate throughout a woman’s body in small amounts—are at high risk of type 2 diabetes. In fact, studies show that women with PCOS are between two and four times more likely to have type 2 diabetes compared to women without PCOS.

The exact cause of PCOS is a mystery, but research has shown that there is likely a mix of hereditary, lifestyle, and environmental factors at play.

PCOS is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes because it is often associated with insulin resistance—a condition in which the body’s cells become less sensitive to the actions of insulin, the major hormone that governs glucose metabolism in the body. When the cells don’t respond to insulin, blood sugar levels rise, poisoning blood vessels and nerves that serve vital organs such as the eyes, heart, and kidneys.

Endometrial Cancer

Type 2 diabetes seems to be a major risk factor for endometrial cancer. Women with type 2 diabetes have double the lifetime risk of developing endometrial cancer compared to women who do not have type 2 diabetes; the exact reasons are under investigation.

Scientists theorize that the increased prevalence of endometrial cancer in people living with type 2 diabetes lies in higher obesity rates amongst this population. Obesity is a major risk factor for type 2 diabetes and endometrial cancer and seems to be the common denominator of the two conditions.

Other risk factors for endometrial cancer include:

  • Being more than 65 years old
  • Late onset menopause
  • Getting your period (menarche) early in life
  • Never having been pregnant (nulliparity)
  • Chronic anovulation including polycystic ovarian syndrome and estrogen therapy in the absence of progesterone
  • Tamoxifen therapy
  • History of hereditary predisposition (Lynch syndrome)

Urinary Tract Infections

Type 2 diabetes puts women at higher risk of urinary tract infections—bacterial infections that can affect the ureters, kidneys, and bladder.

Women living with type 2 diabetes are especially at risk of infection with antibiotic-resistant bacteria that cause more severe illness because they are harder to treat. The most common UTI pathogens in women living with type 2 diabetes are Escherichia coli (E. Coli), Klebsiella, Enterobacter, and Enterococci bacteria.

Symptoms of lower UTIs include:

  • Increased urination (frequency) 
  • Increased need to suddenly use the bathroom (urgency)
  • Pain during urination (dysuria)
  • Lower abdominal pain (suprapubic pain)

Rarely, UTIs travel up the ureters and affect the kidneys and bladder. Symptoms of upper UTIs include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Back pain (costovertebral tenderness)
  • Trouble urinating

Diabetes and Pregnancy

Diabetes can cause problems during pregnancy for women, including increasing the risk of miscarriage, preeclampsia (high blood pressure in pregnancy), and preterm labor.

Type 2 diabetes also puts a woman’s baby at risk of developing congenital malformations and other problems. Adequate prenatal care and health care during pregnancy can help prevent pregnancy complications and birth defects and decrease a woman’s morbidity and mortality rate.

Gestational diabetes (GD), a type of diabetes that only occurs during pregnancy, is the most common medical complication of pregnancy, sometimes requiring insulin treatment in pregnancy.

Does Gestational Diabetes Go Away?

While gestational diabetes often resolves after delivery, having GD increases a woman’s lifetime risk of type 2 diabetes. Therefore, a woman with GD may want to pay close attention to how they feel after delivery and seek follow-up care if any issues arise. 


If you have type 2 diabetes, managing your blood sugar with a combination of lifestyle, diet modifications and medication will be the best way to reduce your symptoms and avoid serious medical complications.

Symptomatic treatments such as antibiotics for a UTI or an antifungal medication for a yeast infection must also be added to your treatment regimen to maximize your relief. 

Meeting with a diabetes counselor can help you formulate a plan that works best for you. This plan may include: 

  • Developing a heart-healthy eating plan focused on eating a healthy balance of good carbohydrates and fats and low sodium
  • Regular exercise
  • Testing your blood sugar and keep a record of the results
  • Recognizing the signs of high or low blood sugar and what to do about it
  • Learning how to provide yourself insulin, if needed
  • Taking diabetes medication, such as metformin, and learning the importance of medication compliance
  • Attending a diabetes education class
  • Checking your feet, skin, and eyes to catch problems early
  • Buying diabetes supplies and storing them properly
  • Limiting or avoiding stressful situations
  • Managing other medical conditions that may exacerbate your diabetes or vice versa

In addition to attending regular appointments with a healthcare provider, connecting with support groups and discussing your diabetes journey with family and friends may also provide you with the support and encouragement you need to best adapt to these new lifestyle changes. 


In women, type 2 diabetes can cause significant complications including heart disease, an increased frequency of UTIs and yeast infections, and fertility problems. Identifying symptoms early on and getting your blood sugar under control is key to preventing serious health problems. 

A Word From Verywell 

Type 2 diabetes can impact any woman, at any age, regardless of exercise or eating habits. Knowing the early and unique signs and symptoms makes it possible for you to get an early diagnosis and treatment.

Women who are overweight or obese or have a history of gestational diabetes are especially at high risk. Therefore, if you are experiencing any signs of diabetes, check in with a healthcare provider who can answer your questions and provide you with the guidance needed to avoid serious medical issues down the line.

Fortunately, advances in diabetes treatment and medical technologies have helped increase the quality of life for many people and even made it possible to live with little or no symptoms of diabetes.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is diabetes more common in men or women?

    Some studies indicate that men and women have diabetes at equal rates, while others show that men are more likely to develop diabetes than women. No matter the case, both men and women should be aware of the unique signs and symptoms of type 2 diabetes so they can receive treatment as early as possible. 

  • Can you get pregnant if you have type 2 diabetes?

    Yes. You can get pregnant if you have type 2 diabetes, although you may be at greater risk of medical complications.

  • What is the most common symptom of diabetes in women?

    Extreme thirst, fatigue, urination, and hunger are the most common early signs of type 2 diabetes, although symptoms of diabetes unique to women include more frequent urinary tract and vaginal infections and pregnancy complications as a result of gestational diabetes.

7 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.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Type 2 diabetes.

  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Women’s Health. Diabetes.

  3. MedlinePlus. Yeast infection.

  4. Gambineri A, Patton L, Altieri P, et al. Polycystic ovary syndrome is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes: results from a long-term prospective study. Diabetes. 2012;61(9):2369-2374. doi:10.2337/db11-1360

  5. Saed L, Varse F, Baradaran HR, et al. The effect of diabetes on the risk of endometrial cancer: an updated a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Cancer. 2019;19:527. doi:10.1186/s12885-019-5748-4

  6. Nitzan O, Elias M, Chazan B, Saliba W. Urinary tract infections in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus: review of prevalence, diagnosis, and management. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. 2015;8:129-136. doi:10.2147/DMSO.S51792

  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes and pregnancy.

By Shamard Charles, MD, MPH
Shamard Charles, MD, MPH is a public health physician and journalist. He has held positions with major news networks like NBC reporting on health policy, public health initiatives, diversity in medicine, and new developments in health care research and medical treatments.