Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions in this country and abroad – and in the United States at least, one of the biggest jumps in the rate of this disease has been seen in adult men, according to the WebMD site. And because there are some signs and symptoms that are unique or more obvious in men, knowing what to look for – and what to report to your doctor – is incredibly important. It might even be a matter of life and death.
A Word on Diabetes
According to the Mayo Clinic, diabetes is a disease which affects the way the body breaks down the glucose (sugar) from the food we eat in order to bring it to the cell to use it for energy. Insulin is needed in order to transport glucose from the bloodstream to the cells. However, as Type 2 diabetes progresses, the cells of the body become more resistant to insulin and more of this hormone is needed in order to use the glucose properly. Eventually, the body cannot produce enough insulin to keep up and blood sugar levels become high. If they stay high, this can lead to a number of serious diseases, include strokes, heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and an increased risk for amputation.
In other words, it is a serious business. And the stats are serious, too: in the United States alone, there are around 29.1 million diabetics (around 7 million of them undiagnosed) and it is the seventh leading cause of death, according to the National Institute of Health (NIH).
Who Should be Worried?
While rates of diabetes in men are climbing, WebMD notes that there are actually a number of risk factors which can increase a person’s risk for this disease. A person – man or woman – who has one or more of the following risk factors should go to their doctor for testing:
- Over the age of 40
- Overweight or obese
- Family history of diabetes
- Sedentary lifestyle
- A diet high in simple carbohydrates (like sugar or white flour)
- African American, Native American or Hispanic ethnic background
Signs and Symptoms Men Need to Watch For
Healthline notes that while there are many early warning signs – including going to the bathroom more frequently, feeling thirsty and hungry all the time, unexplained tiredness or weight loss or wounds that are slow to heal – there are also some that men need to watch for. These include:
- Urinary problems such as an overactive bladder, loss of bladder control and urinary tract infections.
- Erectile dysfunction. While there are other possible causes for this problem, diabetes should definitely be considered, especially for men over 45.
- Retrograde ejaculation (where some of the semen from ejaculation winds up in the bladder instead of exiting the penis).
These conditions are due to the fact that diabetes, especially if left untreated, will do damage to the nerves, including the nerves which help the penis and urinary tract to function. Diabetes UK, one of the leading diabetes advocates in England, notes that other symptoms that men should look out for include frequent yeast infections in and around the penis (which can cause intense itching, white, chunky-looking discharge and soreness during sex) and general weakness due to loss of muscles. Men who have low testosterone levels, which occurs in men after age 50, are also at higher risk for this disease.
Men who have any of the risk factors and/or symptoms noted above should definitely make an appointment with their doctor to talk about their concerns. Simple testing can determine if you do, in fact, have diabetes. And the good news is that, with a combination of weight loss, a healthy diet, exercise and medication, the dangers of this condition – and the symptoms that it causes – can be greatly reduced.
Photo: Getty Images