Diabetes is a disease in which your body cannot produce enough insulin, cannot use insulin, or a mix of both. In diabetes, sugar levels in the blood go up. This can cause complications if left uncontrolled.
The potential health consequences are often serious. Diabetes raises the risk of cardiovascular disease and can cause problems with your eyes, skin, kidneys, and nervous system. Diabetes can also cause erectile dysfunction (ED) and other urological problems in men.
Fortunately, many of these complications are preventable or treatable with awareness and attention to your health.
Early symptoms of diabetes are often undetected because they may not seem that serious. Some of the mildest early diabetes symptoms include:
- frequent urination
- unusual fatigue
- blurred vision
- weight loss, even without dieting
- tingling or numbness in hands and feet
If you allow diabetes to go untreated in these early stages, complications can occur. These complications include issues with your skin, eyes, and nerves (including nerve damage, or neuropathy).
Watch out for bacterial infections in your eyelids (styes), hair follicles (folliculitis), or fingernails or toenails. Additionally, make note of any stabbing/shooting pains in your hands and feet. All of these are signals that you may be experiencing complications from diabetes.
Symptoms in Men
Erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection. It can be a symptom of many health issues, including high blood pressure, stress, smoking, medication, kidney disease, and circulatory or nervous system conditions.
According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, men with diabetes are at risk for ED. The organization states that 20 to 75 percent of men with diabetes have erectile dysfunction. If you experience ED, consider diabetes as a possible cause.
Damage to Autonomic Nervous System
Diabetes can harm the autonomic nervous system (ANS) and lead to sexual problems. The ANS controls the widening or constricting of your blood vessels. If the blood vessels and nerves in the penis are injured by diabetes, ED can result. Blood vessel diseases slow blood flow into the penis. This is another common cause of ED among men with diabetes.
Men with diabetes can also face retrograde ejaculation. This results in some semen being released into the bladder. Symptoms may include noticeably less semen released during ejaculation.
Urologic issues can occur in men with diabetes due to diabetic nerve damage. These include an overactive bladder, inability to control urination, and urinary tract infections (UTIs).
Talking frankly with your doctor about ED and other sexual or urologic complications is essential. Simple blood tests can help diagnose diabetes. Investigating the cause of your ED can also help you discover other undiagnosed problems.
Many factors can increase your risk for experiencing complications from diabetes, including:
- being overweight
- avoiding physical activity
- having high blood pressure or high cholesterol
- being older than 40
Quitting or reducing smoking, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight are all highly effective ways to prevent the onset of diabetes.
Keep your blood glucose level under control to prevent urological and other diabetes-related problems. Medications, exercise, and a proper diet can help you manage your blood sugar levels.
Conditions like diabetes or heart disease can lead to emotional problems, including anxiety or depression. These can worsen your ED and other aspects of your health. Talk to your doctor if you start to experience feelings of hopelessness, sadness, anxiety, or worry.
Erectile dysfunction medications, such as tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra), and sildenafil (Viagra) may help you manage your ED. Medications mixed with prostaglandins can also be injected into your penis to help treat your ED. Your doctor may also refer you to a urologist or endocrinologist to treat the effects of low testosterone. Low testosterone is a common result of diabetes in men.
Low testosterone can cause you to lose interest in sex, experience decreases in body mass, and feel depressed. Talking to your doctor about these symptoms can allow you to get treatments such as testosterone injections or patches and gels that treat low testosterone.
Discuss all medications and supplements with your doctor to avoid any potentially harmful drug interactions. Share any changes in your sleeping pattern or other lifestyle habits with your doctor as well. Treating your mind can help the problems affecting the rest of your body.
Certain lifestyle choices can greatly impact your physical and mental well-being if you have diabetes:
- Balancing your meals with an even mixture of starches, fruits and veggies, fats, and proteins can improve your bodily health and delay the onset of diabetes symptoms.
- Avoid excess sugar, especially in carbonated drinks like soda and in candies.
- Keep a regular exercise schedule and manage your blood sugar within your exercise regimen. This can allow you to get the full benefits of a workout without feeling shaky, tired, dizzy, or anxious.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men are slightly more likely than women to develop diabetes. Diabetes is a growing problem in the United States for many, including children, and 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. You can still live well with diabetes. With healthy lifestyle behaviors and proper medications, you might be able to prevent or manage complications.
Being proactive is vital. Get a blood test if you can’t remember the last time you had your blood glucose checked, especially if you’re experiencing ED or other well-known diabetes complications.