Diabetes raises the chance of getting heart disease and may affect your eyes, kidneys, skin, and other body parts. In people assigned male at birth, diabetes can cause erectile dysfunction (ED) and other urological problems.

A male leaning against a fence.Share on Pinterest
zf L/Getty Images

Diabetes is a disease in which your body can’t produce enough insulin, can’t use insulin, or both. When living with diabetes, the sugar levels in your blood can fluctuate. Uncontrolled high blood sugar levels can lead to complications that affect several major organs throughout the body.

Diabetes can creep in slowly with few recognizable symptoms at first, including frequent urination, weight loss, and fatigue. There are two main types of diabetes: Type 1 and type 2.

Type 1 typically develops in children through young adults and causes a rapid onset of symptoms. Type 2 diabetes typically develops in adults, though it can also occur in children and will often develop slowly over the course of several years.

You may not even notice symptoms of type 2 diabetes until they become noticeable. Once diagnosed, you can typically treat type 2 diabetes with the support of your healthcare team, as well as with dietary and exercise changes, along with other lifestyle interventions.

Read on to learn about the symptoms of diabetes and how it may affect males.

Are sex and gender the same thing?

People often use the terms sex and gender interchangeably, but they have different meanings:

  • “Sex” refers to the physical characteristics that differentiate male, female, and intersex bodies.
  • “Gender” refers to a person’s identity and how they feel inside. Examples include man, woman, nonbinary, agender, bigender, genderfluid, pangender, and trans. A person’s gender identity may be different from the sex they were assigned at birth.
Was this helpful?

Early symptoms of diabetes are often undetected because they may be mild or non-specific. Some of the mildest early diabetes symptoms include:

If you are living with diabetes, effective treatment can help to prevent complications from occurring. Complications may include issues with your:

Possible signs of complications related to diabetes can include:

All of these are signals that you may be experiencing complications from diabetes.

Diabetes can also cause symptoms related to male sexual health. These can include:

Erectile dysfunction (ED)

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection.

It can be a symptom of many health issues, including:

Stress, smoking, or certain medication can also cause ED to occur.

Males with diabetes have a greater chance of developing ED. According to a 2017 meta-analysis of 145 studies, over 50% of men with diabetes have erectile dysfunction. The study included males with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, with no distinction in the results between the two.

If you are living with diabetes and develop ED, diabetes may be the underlying cause.

Learn more about the causes of ED.

Damage to the autonomic nervous system (ANS)

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.

Diabetes can damage blood vessels and nerves needed to achieve an erection. This is another common cause of ED among males with diabetes.

Retrograde ejaculation

Males 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 or absence of ejaculation.

Urologic issues

Urologic issues can occur in males with diabetes due to diabetic nerve damage. These include:

Other sexual issues

If you are living with diabetes, you may experience lower testosterone levels than others. Aging can naturally reduce your testosterone levels, leading to a loss of interest in sex, tiredness, and a depressed mood, but diabetes and obesity increase the likelihood of having lower levels.

Lower testosterone can lead to ED and other sexual health issues.

You may also experience a reduced sperm count. This can make it more difficult to conceive.

You may also increase your chance of developing Peyronie’s disease or penis curvature. The curve can make sexual intercourse more difficult and painful.

Type 1 vs. type 2 diabetes

Experts do not separate out symptoms in males with type 1 vs. type 2 diabetes, as most symptoms that affect either sex are generally the same. The difference usually lies in how long it takes symptoms to become noticeable and does not depend on a person’s sex. That symptoms tend to progress faster in type 1.

The complications, such as ED, occur due to high blood sugar levels, and can occur in both types if not well controlled.

That said, some things can be seen as different in males regarding type 1 or type 2. For example, both types of diabetes can cause low testosterone. Still, males with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to have this issue compared to people who do not have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

Seeking help

Talking frankly with a doctor or healthcare practitioner about ED and other sexual or urologic complications may help. Simple blood tests can help diagnose diabetes.

Investigating the cause of your ED or other issues may also help you discover other undiagnosed issues that may be contributing factors.

Many factors can increase your chance of developing diabetes and its complications, including:

Type 1 diabetes has different risk factors. You are more likely to develop it as a child or teen and have a family history of the condition.

Quitting smoking, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight are all effective ways to help prevent the onset of diabetes.

Discover more ways to prevent diabetes.

If you are living with type 2 diabetes, chances are good that a healthcare team will help you develop a treatment plan that includes lifestyle modifications. Often, changes, such as exercise and dietary changes, can help you control your blood sugar levels.

If these are not effective, a doctor may recommend medications to help keep your blood glucose levels under control and prevent urological and other diabetes-related complications.

If you do develop diabetes-related problems, medications are available to help treat them.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes may greatly impact your physical and mental well-being if you live with type 2 diabetes. They may also be all you need to do in order to keep your blood sugar at healthy levels.

Balancing your meal’s macronutrients can improve your overall health, keep blood sugar levels consistent, and delay the onset of diabetes symptoms. Try to get an even mixture of:

You should avoid excess sugar in foods and drinks such as soda, juices, processed foods, and candies.

You can also benefit from a regular exercise schedule. This can help you feel better and also help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

Along with changes to diet and exercise, you will need to monitor your blood sugar levels regularly. This allows you to know if what you are doing is working and if you need to talk with your doctor about the possibility of medication.

Monitoring your blood sugar levels can also help you figure out what your symptoms of high or low blood sugar levels feel like. If you write this information down or record it, you can use signs of high or low blood sugar levels to help you know when to take action.

Finally, you may find that taking steps to manage stress, such as exercise, meditation, or therapies, may help manage diabetes.


ED medications, such as tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra), and sildenafil (Viagra), may help you manage your condition. Medications mixed with prostaglandins, hormone-like compounds, can also be injected into your penis to help treat your ED.

A doctor may also refer you to a urologist or endocrinologist to treat the effects of low testosterone.

Low testosterone can cause you to lose interest in sex, experience decreases in body mass, and feel depressed. Talking with 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 a doctor to avoid potentially harmful drug interactions. Share any changes in your sleeping pattern or other lifestyle habits with your doctor.

You should also plan to take medications for blood sugar or insulin as prescribed. This can help keep your blood sugar levels regulated and prevent complications and unwanted symptoms.

Being proactive with your health can help. You should consider getting 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 possible diabetes symptoms or complications.

Diabetes and its complications, such as heart disease, can lead to emotional problems, including anxiety or depression. These can worsen your ED and other aspects of your health. Talk with your doctor if you experience hopelessness, sadness, anxiety, or worry.

What are the three early signs of diabetes?

Diabetes can present differently for different people. In some cases, a person may not develop any noticeable symptoms. When they do, commonly reported symptoms can include:

  • producing a lot of urine
  • excessive thirst
  • fatigue
  • losing weight without trying to

What age do men get diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes can develop at any age, but being over age 45 is a known risk factor. People are more likely to develop type 1 diabetes as a child or teen.

How do you feel when diabetes starts?

Type 2 diabetes can start gradually. You may not notice any symptoms at all, or they may go unnoticed. If you have symptoms, you may notice fatigue, frequent urination, and thirst. You may also notice other symptoms, such as ED or losing weight without trying.

What causes diabetes in men?

Males may be more likely to develop type 2 diabetes due to storing excess fat around their midsections. Males may also have a lower diagnosis rate due to not wanting to seek medical help for symptoms.

Diabetes can cause several symptoms unique to men. The primary and easy-to-identify issue is ED, but you may also develop a curved penis, issues with urinary continence, or lower testosterone. Unregulated blood sugar levels can lead to several health complications, which can cause additional symptoms in different parts of your body.

With healthy lifestyle changes, such as exercise, quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and maintaining a healthy weight, along with proper medications, you might be able to prevent type 2 diabetes from developing or manage complications and symptoms.