The incidence and prevalence of diabetes is higher than it was a decade ago. It seems to be everywhere. Sometimes, it is someone you know, sometimes a family member, and at times, someone you never imagined! Have you wondered if diabetes shows up differently? Are the symptoms of diabetes in men very specific or any different from those in women? Let’s find out.
Diabetes is a chronic disease in which your body either cannot produce enough of the insulin hormone or cannot use it effectively or both. Insulin is responsible for the uptake of glucose by your body’s cells. Thus, in diabetes, glucose is not taken up by the cells and your blood glucose levels go up.
Diabetes, and its predecessor stage, prediabetes, usually affect men and women in similar ways. Prediabetes is a condition in which you have higher than normal blood sugar levels, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. A fasting blood glucose level between 100 to 125 mg/dL is usually regarded as prediabetes.
Most men and women will not have any symptoms of prediabetes, until it develops into Type 2 diabetes. Some prediabetic individuals may show symptoms including:
While several symptoms of diabetes are specific only to men and only to women, several diabetes symptoms are common to both men and women. These symptoms include:
Diabetes can cause certain symptoms specific to men, and many of these symptoms are related to their sexual health. Specific diabetes symptoms in men are:
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is the part of the nervous system that regulates a variety of body processes taking place without conscious effort. It regulates the internal organs, including the blood vessels, stomach, intestine, liver, etc.
High blood sugar levels damage blood vessels, causing harm to the ANS. Damage to the ANS can lead to sexual health problems in men.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection for sexual intercourse. If the blood vessels and nerves in the penis are injured by diabetes, it can cause ED. Blood vessels damaged by diabetes can also slow down blood flow into the penis and lead to ED.
ED is a common condition among diabetic men. If you experience ED often, diabetes may be the cause.
Diabetes can also cause retrograde ejaculation in men, where some semen is released into the bladder instead of emerging out of the penis during an orgasm. As a result, less semen is released during ejaculation.
Although the semen that is released into the bladder mixes with urine and is removed during urination, retrograde ejaculation may lead to male infertility.
Testosterone is the primary sex hormone in males. Low testosterone levels in men may be referred to as male hypogonadism or testosterone deficiency syndrome.
Research suggests that men with type 2 diabetes usually have low testosterone levels. Low testosterone levels may result in a reduced sex drive, erectile dysfunction, increased body fat, reduced muscle mass, and fatigue in men.
The nerve damage in men due to diabetes can also lead to issues with urological health. Problems include an overactive bladder, inability to control urination, and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Thrush is a yeast infection caused by the overgrowth of a type of fungus called Candida. Genital thrush is when there is an overgrowth of the fungus in the genital area of men.
In diabetes, the excess glucose present in the blood may get excreted in the urine. However, the sugar still acts as a nutrition source for the yeast to overgrow and cause an infection on the penis. Symptoms of genital thrush include redness, swelling, and itching around the head of the penis, foul odour, and discomfort during sex.
In diabetes, consistently raised blood sugar levels and the insufficient action of insulin may suppress the growth and proliferation of muscle cells, leading to a decline in skeletal muscle mass. This results in reduced strength and muscle weakness. This symptom of diabetes is more common in men with Type 1 diabetes.
Watch out for these common and male-specific symptoms of diabetes, and seek immediate medical attention to get your blood glucose levels checked at the earliest. If your blood glucose levels are elevated (prediabetes) and you are at risk for Type 2 diabetes, a timely intervention into your diet and lifestyle may be able to prevent the condition from progressing to diabetes.
If you are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you can manage the condition and prevent further complications with healthy lifestyle behaviours and appropriate medications.
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