We get it; talking about men’s health can be challenging. Even if it may seem awkward, it’s an important conversation to have—especially if you’re living with diabetes.
Because of how diabetes affects men specifically, it can cause complications such as erectile dysfunction, an overactive bladder, ejaculatory dysfunction, and urinary tract infections.
While not as alarming as other health complications like heart disease, stroke, or kidney failure, these complications can have an impact on men’s sexual life, reducing their quality of life.
If you’re a man with type 2 diabetes and experiencing problems in this area, it’s important to know that hope is not lost! This article will explore the relationship between diabetes and men’s health, why diabetes can increase the likelihood of these complications, and what you can do about it.
Diabetes and Men’s Health
According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes affects roughly 11.3% of the US population. Men are also more likely to develop diabetes, according to the CDC. In fact: according to this recent study:
- The percentage of adults with diabetes increased with age, reaching 29.2% among those aged 65 years or older.
- 37.1 million adults aged 18 years or older—or 14.7% of all US adults—have diabetes.
- According to a different source, unfortunately, many men postpone or avoid medical care
While diabetes can cause a wide range of serious health-related issues, the way it specifically affects certain aspects of men’s health can often be overlooked.
Changes in Testosterone Levels
Testosterone is an important hormone for men because it regulates things like muscle mass, metabolism, and libido.
The core of many men’s health complications from diabetes stems from alterations in the levels of testosterone. This is because of how the male sex hormone, like many other aspects of the body, is affected by blood sugar.
Testosterone is produced in response to luteinizing hormones (LH), which come from the pituitary gland. Elevated blood sugar and insulin levels can affect productions of LH. When blood sugar is elevated, the pituitary gland struggles to create the appropriate amount of LH, which can result in lower levels of testosterone.
Erectile Dysfunction, or ED, occurs when a man struggles to build and maintain an erection. While ED affects as many as 30 million men in the US, men living with diabetes are three times more likely to have it.
ED is directly linked to lowered levels of testosterone. However, that’s not the only reason why it is so prevalent in men living with diabetes. The main causes of ED in men with diabetes are:
- Lowered levels of testosterone
- Side effects of diabetes medications
- Damage to the small blood vessels or nerves in the penis from high blood sugar
ED can also cause lowered levels of libido due to how diabetes alters testosterone production.
Since elevated glucose levels can damage the blood vessels and nerves below the belt, ejaculation issues are common in men with diabetes. This damage can alter the way semen travels through the reproductive system and often place it inside your bladder before leaving during urination instead of coming out the normal way.
This is called retrograde ejaculation, and while it may sound odd, it’s typically harmless. You will still likely experience orgasm. However, in rare cases, retrograde ejaculation can lead to infertility.
Bladder problems are very common in men with diabetes because high glucose levels in the blood can increase urinary frequency. This can be exacerbated by weight issues that are common in people with diabetes as more pressure is continuously applied to the bladder. It can also be caused by certain drugs (like Jardiance) that cause bladder symptoms.
Because having an overactive bladder can damage the muscles used to push urine out, it can cause other issues, such as:
- Urinary retention (difficulty going)
- Difficulty maintaining a steady flow of urine
- A strong urge to urinate even with little urine
- Leaking urine after going
Issues with the bladder can also lead to an increased prevalence of bladder and urinary tract infections.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Men with diabetes are much more likely to experience UTIs because of how diabetes affects the bladder and lower urinary tract. Issues such as urinary retention and altered muscle function can make it difficult to know when it’s time to actually go to the bathroom.
This increases the likelihood of bladder infections which can be problematic in their own right but are especially worth noting because they can spread into the kidneys and become more serious.
Common UTI symptoms to look out for include:
- The frequent and heightened urge to urinate
- Lower abdomen pain
- Urethra pain
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Fever or chills
Supporting Your Health Through the Highs and Lows
It may be disheartening to hear the many ways that diabetes can impact aspects of your sex life and urinary health. However, there are ways that you can take charge and significantly increase your quality of life.
Lifestyle changes such as exercise and a healthy diet can go a long way toward mitigating the impact of diabetes in ways specific to men. Some of the best changes you can make to reduce your chances of ED and bladder problems are:
- Exercising Regularly. Remaining active can make your body more sensitive to insulin which can help you keep your blood sugar levels in your target range. Regular exercise also lowers your risk of heart disease and other diabetes-related complications.
- Maintaining a healthy diet. Eating healthier foods and maintaining a proper diet can help keep your blood sugar within optimal levels. Avoid foods containing saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar, and make sure you get enough lean proteins and non-starchy vegetables.
- Cutting back on alcohol. Alcohol can damage your blood vessels, including the ones in your reproductive system. Moreover, intoxication can increase the difficulty of achieving and maintaining an erection.
- Quitting smoking. Smoking[Link to: How Does Smoking Affect Diabetes] also exacerbates ED due to how it contracts and damages blood vessels, reducing blood flow to the penis.
- Developing healthy sleep patterns. Getting enough rest can lower your risk of ED and also help manage your blood sugar.
Ensuring you are always aware of your glucose levels can also benefit your health. An automatic blood glucose monitor (ABGM), like the POGO Automatic® Monitor, can make monitoring your blood sugar levels easy by automatically lancing and collecting blood with the press of a button.
Taking a proactive approach to manage your diabetes while working with your healthcare provider can help you get your symptoms under control so that you can live your life to the fullest. When it comes to diabetes and men’s health, don’t be afraid to talk about it.
Jaclyn Owens is a product director specializing in diabetes management tools. She is committed to using technology to empower people with diabetes and help them take control of their health.
All content on this website is for educational purposes only and does not replace the guidance of your healthcare practitioner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
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