Recognizing Diabetes Symptoms in Men

Written by James Roland | Published on August 22, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George T. Krucik, MD, MBA on August 22, 2014

See how diabetes has unique effects on men.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a disease in which your blood glucose (sugar) levels are too high. The definition of the disease is simple, but the potential health consequences are complex and often serious. Diabetes raises the risk of cardiovascular disease. It can also cause problems with your eyes, skin, kidneys, and nervous system. For men, erectile dysfunction (ED) and other urological problems are also associated with diabetes.

Fortunately, many of these complications are preventable or treatable. The key is awareness and taking charge of your health.

Diabetes and Sexual Dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection. It can be a symptom of many health issues. These include high blood pressure, stress, smoking, medication side effects, and kidney disease. It can also be caused by conditions related to the circulatory and nervous systems.

If you start to experience ED, consider the possibility of diabetes. According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, men with diabetes are at risk for ED. Though estimates vary, the organization says 20 to 75 percent of men with diabetes have erectile dysfunction.

Diabetes may lead to sexual problems because it can harm the body’s autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS controls the widening or constricting of your blood vessels. If the blood vessels and nerves in the penis are injured by diabetes, the result can be ED.

Another diabetes-related urological problem men face is a condition called retrograde ejaculation. The condition results in some semen being released into the bladder. Symptoms may include noticeably less semen produced during ejaculation.

Sexual problems can be uncomfortable to talk about. A frank conversation with your doctor about ED and other symptoms is essential. Simple blood tests can help diagnose diabetes. Investigating the cause of your ED could lead you to discover other undiagnosed problems, too.

Prevention and Treatment

The best way to prevent urological and other diabetes-related problems is to keep you blood glucose levels under control. Treatments include medications, exercise, and a proper diet. Erectile dysfunction medications, such as tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra) and sildenafil (Viagra) may treat your ED.

To avoid any potentially harmful drug interactions, discuss all medications and supplements with your doctor.

Sometimes, conditions such as diabetes or heart disease can lead to emotional problems like anxiety or depression. These can worsen your ED, as well as other aspects of your health. Speak with your doctor if you start to experience feelings of hopelessness, sadness, anxiety, or worry. If you develop new eating and sleeping behaviors, share those new symptoms with your doctor. By treating the mind, you may help the problems affecting the rest of your body.

Other Symptoms

Some diabetes symptoms are common to both men and women. For example, a variety of skin problems may be among the first signs of diabetes.

Poor circulation caused by diabetes may cause itching in the lower legs and feet. Having diabetes also makes you more vulnerable to bacterial and fungal skin infections. Practice good skin care and see a dermatologist when skin problems arise.

Nerve damage affects about half of those with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. When nerves are damaged by diabetes, it’s called diabetic neuropathy. In autonomic neuropathy, you experience damage to nerves that control basic functions, such as circulation and respiration. In peripheral neuropathy, you experience tingling or pain in the hands or feet. If you have these feelings, or experience numbness in  your hands or feet, tell your doctor. Treating diabetic neuropathy as early as possible may limit the extent of the damage.


Men are slightly more likely than women to develop diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes is a growing problem in the United States for many demographics, including children. The rise in obesity may shoulder much of the blame.

If you have elevated blood sugar and are at risk for type 2 diabetes, you might be able to prevent it. Even if you develop diabetes, you can still live well. With healthy behaviors and proper medication use, you might be able to prevent or manage complications of the diabetes.

Being proactive is vital. If you can’t remember the last time you had your blood glucose checked, get a blood test soon. This especially important if you’re starting to experience ED or other well-known diabetes symptoms.

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