Have you had bouts of dizziness or unexplained irritability? Perhaps you’ve been feeling lethargic, with fatigue setting in by the middle of the day, even before hitting the gym? Maybe, you’re worried about your performance in bed? Believe it or not, all of these could be early signs of diabetes in men.
Type 2 Diabetes is a disease characterized by the body’s inability to produce enough insulin. Sometimes, it could be the inability to use that insulin properly too. But, sometimes it could be a mix of both. If you’ve been feeling any of the above symptoms lately, chances are, your blood sugar levels are unstable. Research studies show that, biologically, men are more likely to get Type 2 diabetes, than women. But, this does not necessarily indicate that men are more vigilant about early symptoms.
“A 40-year old man had been feeling tired for a whole year. It was only when he began to go to the washroom every hour that he finally came to see me. When we ran his labs, his HbA1c was at 22! A lot of internal damage must have occurred from blood sugar for years,” says Mahesh Jayaraman, Medical Researcher and Co-Founder of Sepalika.
Here’s an important fact for you to chew on: Men, in general, tend to ignore early signs of T2D much more than women do. This is because of a tendency to bear it like a man. Often, symptoms of prediabetes are ignored as well. Prediabetes is a condition defined by slightly elevated blood sugar levels, that are not actually in the “dangerously high” range. Generally, men don’t get to the doctor before they have full-blown diabetes. Trust us when we say this – It’s not a good idea to ignore these symptoms of diabetes in men. Early detection and lifestyle changes make it so much easier and quicker to reverse prediabetes.
General Signs of Diabetes Type 2 in Adults
The risk for type 2 diabetes in men, typically, increases with age. In the absence of risks, testing should begin after the age of 45. The potential health complications of diabetes are often serious. Increased risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), cardiovascular disease, vision problems, neuropathy, skin infections and kidney impairment are a few. Not to mention, diabetes can also cause Erectile Dysfunction, along with several other urological problems.
There are specific early signs of diabetes one would notice in women too (including PCOS and other hormonal imbalances). Before we go into specific symptoms of diabetes in men, let’s take a quick look at some of the general signs of T2D in all adults. These include, but are not limited to:
- A feeling of dizziness caused by fluctuating blood sugar levels
- Increased thirst and hunger
- Frequent urination
- Fatigue and excessive tiredness
- Blurry vision
- Skin Infections or sores that don’t heal
- Numbness in the hands, and particularly, in the feet
- Unexpected weight loss
Diabetes and Erectile Dysfunction
Diabetes and sex are more closely linked than you’d like to believe. Erectile Dysfunction is a common sign of diabetes in men. While women experience vaginal dryness, men are prone to erectile dysfunction. High blood sugar levels can reduce erectile sensitivity. So, you either can’t achieve an erection or have difficulty maintaining it during sex. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases estimates that “Erectile dysfunction numbers in men with diabetes vary widely, ranging from 20 to 75 percent. Men who have diabetes are two to three times likelier to have ED than men who don’t have diabetes. Among men with ED, those with diabetes may experience the problem as much as 10 to 15 years earlier than men without diabetes. Research suggests that erectile dysfunction may be an early marker of diabetes, particularly in men aged 45 and younger”.
According to a study examining 1460 patients published in Diabetes Care in Feb 2002:
- 4% of the patients reported frequent erectile problems
- 24% reported occasional problems
- 42% reported no erectile problems
The researchers found that ED was associated with higher levels of diabetes-specific health distress and, worse, psychological adaptation to diabetes. These were, in turn, related to bad metabolic control. What’s unfortunate is that a whopping 63% of the diabetic patients reported that their physicians had never investigated their sexual problems.
Why does this happen? High blood sugar levels affect blood vessels and nerves that are crucial for achieving or maintaining an erection. Complications progress when diabetes is left unchecked, much like the case in diabetic neuropathy. One common symptom among the two of these complications is that diabetic men lose sensation in the feet, or feel like they are walking on pillows.
Diabetes directly affects the Autonomic Nervous system (ANS) which controls the constricting and widening of blood vessels. Damaged blood supply to the penis hinders with:
- The ability to get proper blood flow into the penis to maintain an erection
- Stimulation and response of the nerves that achieve and maintain an erection
Diabetes and Retrograde Ejaculation
Retrograde Ejaculation or RE refers to a condition where semen travels retrograde into the bladder after deposition into the posterior urethra, following orgasm. This is very different from anejaculation or complete absence of ejaculate. Patients report cloudy urine following ejaculation. A post-ejaculatory urine sample is taken to confirm if sperm is present, to arrive at a clear diagnosis.
Studies have found that retrograde ejaculation can be a rare type 1 diabetes symptom in men. But, it is also seen in men who have type 2 diabetes. RE occurs when diabetic neuropathy causes the nerves controlling ejaculation to malfunction.
Diabetes and Urologic Problems
Besides sexual problems, there are other urological issues that can be early type 2 diabetes symptoms in men, for example –
- An overactive bladder or frequent urination.
- Urinary incontinence or the inability to control urination, though studies show that it occurs in only 1.5–5% of diabetic men versus the 10–30% of women who are diabetic.
- Urinary tract infections.
Itching of the genitals or around the penis is yet another symptom of diabetes in men. Elevated blood sugar levels weaken the immune system, making diabetics more prone to yeast infections. The kidneys try to excrete excess sugar from the body via urine. Bacteria and yeast thrive on sugar, so this environment is perfect for them to multiply.
It is Very Important to Discuss Type 2 Diabetes Symptoms in Men
Yes, type 2 diabetes symptoms that are related to sexual health are not easy to talk about. But as research shows, 20% to 75% of diabetic patients experience sexual dysfunction due to undetected (or uncontrolled) diabetes. A study from Iran also revealed that as many as 82.5% diabetics have reported experiencing at least one sexual dysfunction episode. We’ve also analysed that, 63% of the time, your physician may not actively discuss your sexual health when you visit him/her with other early symptoms of diabetes.
It’s important that you talk to your doctor if you’re suffering from ED or any other urological complication we’ve mentioned above. A simple diagnostic test could reveal if your blood sugar levels are unstable (which could most probably be the issue). Medication, as well as natural supplements, can ensure normal sexual function. Also, remember that these are not the only symptoms of diabetes. Make sure you see your doctor if you persistently have any of the common symptoms.
Please note: Overweight men are at a higher risk of having diabetes, as compared to overweight women.
This is because men tend to store more belly fat and this extra fat around the liver increases susceptibility to insulin resistance. Losing weight can make a huge difference in helping you reverse diabetes early. So, if you’ve noticed any of the above-mentioned signs of diabetes in men, do yourself a favour and get tested today.