Few people know that diabetes is also called a disease of the “endocrine system”. The endocrine system is made up of eight glands, each producing a different hormone. These hormones catalyze different chemical reactions in the body. Insulin is one such hormone produced by the endocrine glands present in the pancreas. It regulates the chemical process of how blood sugar is used by the body to convert into energy. Insulin deficiency or the reduced ability of the body to respond to available insulin leads to diabetes. This reduced ability can also cause an imbalance in other hormones such as growth hormone in teens, estrogen in women, and testosterone in men. It is important for people with diabetes to understand the symptoms and risks of these hormonal imbalances. So, yes, diabetes and hormonal imbalance have a connection.
Diabetes and adolescents
Adolescence is a period of rapid growth for both boys and girls. This growth is regulated by growth hormone which is produced in greater quantity at this stage. But this reduces the body’s ability to respond to insulin. This is a normal process in adolescents and does not require medical attention. But in adolescents with type 1 diabetes, this process further increases their insulin needs. Parents should take special care of adolescents with type 1 diabetes and discuss insulin dose adjustment with their doctor.
Similarly, obesity in adolescence increases this risk. We have long known that obesity reduces the body’s response to insulin and is a risk factor for diabetes. Obese teens are at an even higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Don’t underestimate the link between diabetes and hormonal imbalance.
Diabetes and hormonal imbalance in adults
In men with type 2 diabetes, the body’s reduced response to insulin leads to reduced testosterone production. Symptoms of this condition are decreased sex drive, fatigue, and frequent mood swings. Men with type 2 diabetes should consult their doctor if they need to have their testosterone levels checked. Men who do not have diabetes, but who suffer from a testosterone deficiency, are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This is because reduced testosterone production reduces the body’s ability to respond to insulin. .
In women, there are cyclical changes in the level of estrogen and progesterone, which are responsible for their menstrual cycle. These cyclical changes also affect the body’s response to insulin and can cause blood sugar fluctuations. For example, just before your period, progesterone levels are high, reducing the body’s response to insulin and increasing blood sugar levels. It is a normal body process. But in women with type 2 diabetes, these blood sugar fluctuations can be more severe, and they should monitor their blood sugar levels before, during, and after their period.
In women with type 2 diabetes, the body’s reduced response to insulin can also lead to estrogen deficiency. This increases the risk of breast, ovarian and cervical cancer. Similarly, obesity, associated with type 2 diabetes, can also lead to irregular periods and infertility in some women. Women with type 2 diabetes should see their doctor if they need tests to check their hormone levels. They should also talk to their doctor about blood sugar fluctuations during their period.
In addition, during a normal pregnancy, there is an increase in blood sugar levels so that the excess sugar in the blood, from the mother, reaches the growing fetus. But in women with diabetes, it can negatively impact their blood sugar control, and they may need a change in their medications or insulin dosage.
Diabetes and hormones in old age
In men, during old age, the level of testosterone begins to drop. In men with diabetes, this level can drop even further and lead to symptoms of testosterone deficiency. In women, during menopause, as estrogen levels drop, the body undergoes a number of changes such as the deposition of fat around the abdominal region. This increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Those who already have diabetes face a different set of challenges: an increase in menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, palpitations and sweating. Those going through menopause should check their blood sugar regularly, and women with diabetes should check with their doctor if they need to change their medication during menopause.
Diabetes is a complex disease because it involves the interaction of different hormones at different stages of life. Specialists who deal with endocrine disorders are endocrinologists. People with diabetes should have regular consultations with them to ensure that diabetes management stays on track and yields optimal results throughout life.
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