Women living with diabetes are subject to social stigma

ANI | Updated: Nov 11, 2017 17:27 IST

New Delhi [India], Nov 11 (ANI): Diabetes, earlier considered a disorder affecting only the rich and affluent, is spreading its wings to include about 70 million people in India today, both in the urban and rural areas.

Nearly half of those affected by this condition are women, in a population of 1.21 billion. What further exacerbates this situation is the fact that this condition is the reason for stigmatization of women in the country.

Women living with diabetes face many problems both physically and mentally, and often have difficulty in getting married as well.

Diabetes can increase the risk of developing several other complications, particularly in women. What is unique about this disease in women is that it affects both mothers and the unborn child.

Women often receive less aggressive treatment for conditions related to diabetes than men. The complications and warning signs in women are also often more difficult to diagnose thus delaying treatment and leading to premature mortality.

Speaking about this, Dr Sanjay Kalra - Consultant Endocrinologist, Bharti Hospital Karnal and Vice President, South Asian Federation of Endocrine Societies said, "Women with high body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, waist-hip ratio, systolic blood pressure, fasting glucose, and cholesterol are more at risk of developing diabetes. Women diagnosed with diabetes not only undergo mental and psychological trauma but are also stigmatized in the Indian society, particularly if they fall in the marriageable age group. Blame, negative social judgment, stereotyping, exclusion, rejection, and discrimination are all characteristics of such stigma."

Adding, "A woman with diabetes can have difficulties in getting married due to lack of awareness about the condition in the society. Some reasons for this rejection include future family life, pregnancy, ability to perform household chores, and the cost of treatment. All of this can even lead to the disorder not being disclosed by the girl's family. All these factors can also lead to depression in the woman eventually."

Complications arising out of diabetes such as vaginal yeast infections and thrush, polycystic ovarian syndrome, sexual dysfunction, and urinary tract infections can make this problem even worse.

Lack of support and adequate care can further result in poor metabolic control, higher complication rates, increased healthcare costs, lost productivity, lower quality of life, as well as increased risk of death.

Dr Kalra also said, "Though the symptoms of diabetes in women are similar to those in men, some of them are unique. Understanding these can help in timely diagnosis and treatment of the condition. There is also a need to raise awareness on the fact that women living with diabetes can live a perfectly normal life with certain lifestyle changes and even be able to conceive and deliver a healthy child. It is imperative for women to get their blood sugar tested frequently, exercise regularly, and get healthy carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables to prevent the risk of diabetes."

The need of the hour is appropriate coping mechanism such as building psychological contact with the patient, their family, and friends. This will be a step towards supporting them socially and empowering them with appropriate tools for managing the condition.

There is also an urgent need to increase awareness about the condition through the media, seminars, posters, group discussions, and education.

Regular monitoring and consulting the doctor, support group for women and facilities for physical activity are other measures that can help. Prevention and control programmes need to be tailored specifically for women based on various societal beliefs and prevailing conditions. (ANI)