Diabetes in women: what are the type 2 diabetes symptoms in women to look out for?

What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a common condition, that can affect a wide range of different people, including people of different cultural backgrounds and ages. Diabetes occurs when a person has high blood glucose, because the body is unable to produce enough insulin. If there is insufficient insulin production, it means that the insulin is unable to help move the glucose from the bloodstream and into the cells to be used for energy.

In diabetes, the signs and symptoms that you experience are related to:

a) the severity of diabetes, i.e. how high your blood glucose levels are,


b) how long you have had the condition, i.e. how long you have high blood glucose levels for.

If diabetes goes undiagnosed, it can lead to a wide range of health conditions. It’s important to understand the signs and symptoms of diabetes, so if you are experiencing any of them, you can seek treatment early.

What is the most common sign or symptom in people with type 2 diabetes?

The most common sign of diabetes is…


That’s right. Nothing. The reason that doctors need to test for diabetes (and people need to demand it), is that most people have no idea that they have it. This regular testing is most important in people at the highest risk of developing type 2 diabetes mellitus.

What are the other common symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

Some early signs that you may have prediabetes or diabetes, includes:

  • Increased thirst, hunger and urination
  • Fatigue and irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Dry and itchy skin
  • Wounds and cuts that heal slowly
  • Changes in weight

Explore the symptoms of diabetes and the symptoms of diabetes in men to learn more about the common symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes.


Click the program that best describes your situation.

What else should I look out for as a woman?

Vaginal and oral yeast infections and vaginal thrush

Yeast and other fungi use glucose for energy and thrive in an environment that is high in sugar. An overgrowth of yeast can result in yeast infections and thrush. Infections can grow in any place on the body that is a warm, moist fold of the skin, including:

  • In the mouth and on the tongue
  • Between fingers and toes
  • Under breasts
  • In or around sex organs

Vaginal yeast infections have symptoms including:

  • Vaginal itching
  • Pain or burning during urination or sex
  • Soreness, redness, or a rash

Oral thrush can develop over time, and displays some of the following symptoms:

  • Creamy, white bumps in the mouth, including on the tongue, inner cheeks, gums, or tonsils
  • These bumps may be painful
  • A bad taste in the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing

Urinary tract infections

Women are more likely to experience a urinary tract infection (UTI) compared to men because of female anatomy. In women, the urethra, which transports urine from the bladder out of the body, is much shorter than the male urethra. It is also much closer to the vagina and anus. Because of this length and location, any naturally occurring bacteria in these areas of the body, have a shorter distance to travel to enter into the bladder, which can result in an infection. If a UTI is not treated, it can lead to a kidney infection.

You may have a UTI if you experience the following:

  • Painful urination
  • A burning sensation
  • Bloody or cloudy urine

The reason why UTIs are a sign of type 2 diabetes in women, is because ongoing high blood glucose levels can cause nerve damage as well impair the immune system. If bacteria start to cause UTIs, the body won’t be well equipped enough to fight the infection.

Female sexual dysfunction

Ongoing high blood glucose can cause nerve damage, resulting in tingling and loss of sensation. Nerve damage can affect sensation in the vaginal area, which may lower a woman’s sex drive.

Polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects a woman’s hormones. Around 50-70% of women with PCOS also have insulin resistance. Insulin is a hormone too, and if the cells in the body become insulin resistant, it can result in high blood glucose levels. Since women with PCOS will likely experience insulin resistance, they have an increased the risk of developing prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms of PCOS include:

  • Irregular periods
  • Weight gain
  • Acne
  • Depression
  • Infertility

Diabetes in pregnancy and gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women, occurring around the 24th to 28th week of pregnancy. Hormones produced during pregnancy can contribute to insulin resistance seen in gestational diabetes. Most pregnant women are able to make enough insulin to overcome the insulin resistance, but some cannot.

Like with type 2 diabetes, extra weight is linked to gestational diabetes. This means that women who are overweight or obese, may already have insulin resistance before they become pregnant. Gaining too much weight during pregnancy can also increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes.

Typically, gestational diabetes goes away after the baby is born. However, women with gestational diabetes have a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. Children born to mothers with gestational diabetes, also have a higher chance of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

All pregnant woman should be tested for gestational diabetes at 24-28 weeks of pregnancy (except for those women who already have diabetes).

What are the risk factors for developing diabetes in women?

There are some risk factors that mean you are more likely to develop diabetes. These include:

  • Being overweight or obese, particularly extra weight around the waist
  • Being physically inactive
  • Eating a poor diet (one that is high in fat, salt, and sugar)
  • High blood pressure
  • Family history of diabetes
  • Ethnic background, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, Pacific Islanders, Asian and South East Asian, African Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Hispanics/ Latinos

When to speak to your doctor?

If you experience any of the above signs and symptoms it is important to get tested for diabetes as soon as possible. Some people are at higher risk and need regular testing if you are 45 years or older or have other risk factors for diabetes. By diagnosing and treating the condition early, it means you can decrease the risk of developing any further health complications, for example nerve damage, blindness, and heart disease.

If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes and would like to know more about how best to manage the condition, you can explore our 12 week diabetes program. The first week is free to try and full of useful information to help you.

If you want to learn more about diabetes, we have dedicated information pages:

Diabetes and Diet Articles - What do I need to know?

Diet, and what you eat, plays an important role in diabetes management. Your diet is also classified as a modifiable risk factor in diabetes. Making changes to your diet can even play an important role in reducing the risk of developing diabetes related complications.

Follow the links below to learn more about diet in diabetes.