Although diabetes affects men and woman equally, some symptoms are gender specific. For example, diabetes symptoms in men can include erectile dysfunction.
Over 34 million adults in the U.S. have diabetes. One in five doesn’t know it, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out. In addition, more men than women are walking around with the condition undiagnosed. That’s why it’s important to recognize possible symptoms of diabetes and, if they occur, talk to your doctor about testing your blood sugar (glucose) levels.
Although about the same number of American men and women have diabetes, experiencing many of the same signs of the condition, some symptoms are gender specific. For example, diabetes symptoms in men often includes problems with sexual and reproductive health.
Why type 2 diabetes symptoms in men may be overlooked
Insulin is a hormone that controls how the body uses glucose. Your pancreas releases insulin in response to food. It regulates glucose levels in the bloodstream and promotes the storage of glucose in body tissues. Diabetes occurs when there’s not enough insulin in the body to regulate sugar or when the body is resistant to insulin.
Type 2 diabetes comprises about 95 percent of diabetes cases in the U.S., affecting somewhat more men than women. It occurs due to insulin resistance, which causes blood sugar levels to rise, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) explains. People with type 2 diabetes may need to take insulin but many can control, and sometimes reverse, the condition with weight loss, exercise, and a healthy diet.
Type 1 diabetes is less common, but more serious. This autoimmune condition results in your pancreas producing little to no insulin. Type 1 usually starts in childhood or young adulthood and requires daily insulin for survival.
Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, is more likely to first develop in middle age. In fact, some of the risk factors for type 2, like being overweight and not getting enough exercise, are often seen as simply a normal part of growing older. Unfortunately, this mistaken belief also carries over to some symptoms of diabetes in men.
In general, both men and women with type 2 diabetes that is not controlled can experience symptoms, including unusual thirst and hunger, frequent urination, fatigue, slow healing of wounds, and bruises and numbness and tingling in hands and feet. Men with diabetes may also experience problems in the bedroom, especially if their condition goes untreated.
Blaming symptoms of type 2 diabetes in men on reaching age can be a dangerous mistake. Any sign of diabetes should signal you or a man in your life needs an appointment with a doctor ASAP. Type 2 diabetes raises the risk for heart disease, stroke, vision problems, and nerve damage, but treating and controlling diabetes can help prevent these health problems.
Diabetes symptoms in men can impact love life
Erectile dysfunction (ED), occurring when a man can’t get or keep an erection firm enough to have sexual intercourse, is not unusual in middle-aged and older men. Getting older doesn’t cause ED, although it increases your chance of having the condition. However, type 2 diabetes triples the odds you’ll develop ED, according to the CDC. So, erectile dysfunction can be one of the symptoms of diabetes in men.
ED can be caused by damage to nerves due to unregulated blood sugar. Other signs and symptoms of diabetes in men related to nerve damage include:
- Overactive bladder (having to urinate many times and night)
- Male incontinence (leaking urine)
- Frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
- Retrograde ejaculation (semen is released into the bladder)
If you have any of these symptoms or problems associated with diabetes, talk to your doctor. Managing diabetes so blood sugar is well controlled can help relieve and reduce many of the problems associated with the disease.
June 03, 2020
Janet O'Dell, RN