What Are The Symptoms of Diabetes in Men? Are They Different From Those in Women? Let’s Find Out.

Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)
Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)

General Physician | 6+ years

symptoms/signs of diabetes in men
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The incidence and prevalence of diabetes is higher than it was a decade ago. It seems to be everywhere. Sometimes, it is someone you know, sometimes a family member, and at times, someone you never imagined! Have you wondered if diabetes shows up differently? Are the symptoms of diabetes in men very specific or any different from those in women? Let’s find out. 

Contents:
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    Common Symptoms of Diabetes in Men and Women
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    Unique Symptoms of Diabetes in Men
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    Don’t Have Time To Read?
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    FAQs
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Common Symptoms of Diabetes in Men and Women

Diabetes is a chronic disease in which your body either cannot produce enough of the insulin hormone or cannot use it effectively or both. Insulin is responsible for the uptake of glucose by your body’s cells. Thus, in diabetes, glucose is not taken up by the cells and your blood glucose levels go up. 

Diabetes, and its predecessor stage, prediabetes, usually affect men and women in similar ways. Prediabetes is a condition in which you have higher than normal blood sugar levels, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes. A fasting blood glucose level between 100 to 125 mg/dL is usually regarded as prediabetes. 

Most men and women will not have any symptoms of prediabetes, until it develops into Type 2 diabetes. Some prediabetic individuals may show symptoms including:

  • Darkening of skin in the armpit, elbows, knees, back, and/or sides of the neck (acanthosis nigricans).
  • Skin tags, which are small skin growths.

While several symptoms of diabetes are specific only to men and only to women, several diabetes symptoms are common to both men and women. These symptoms include: 

  • Unintended weight loss or gain
  • Fatigue
  • Excessive thirst (polydipsia)
  • Extreme hunger (polyphagia)
  • Frequent urination (polyuria)
  • Irritability
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Nausea
  • Sweet or fruity-smelling breath
  • Skin infections
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
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Unique Symptoms of Diabetes in Men

Diabetes can cause certain symptoms specific to men, and many of these symptoms are related to their sexual health. Specific diabetes symptoms in men are:

1. Damaged Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is the part of the nervous system that regulates a variety of body processes taking place without conscious effort. It regulates the internal organs, including the blood vessels, stomach, intestine, liver, etc. 

High blood sugar levels damage blood vessels, causing harm to the ANS. Damage to the ANS can lead to sexual health problems in men. 

2. Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection for sexual intercourse. If the blood vessels and nerves in the penis are injured by diabetes, it can cause ED. Blood vessels damaged by diabetes can also slow down blood flow into the penis and lead to ED. 

ED is a common condition among diabetic men. If you experience ED often, diabetes may be the cause.

3. Retrograde Ejaculation

Diabetes can also cause retrograde ejaculation in men, where some semen is released into the bladder instead of emerging out of the penis during an orgasm. As a result, less semen is released during ejaculation. 

Although the semen that is released into the bladder mixes with urine and is removed during urination, retrograde ejaculation may lead to male infertility.

4. Low Testosterone Levels

Testosterone is the primary sex hormone in males. Low testosterone levels in men may be referred to as male hypogonadism or testosterone deficiency syndrome.

Research suggests that men with type 2 diabetes usually have low testosterone levels. Low testosterone levels may result in a reduced sex drive, erectile dysfunction, increased body fat, reduced muscle mass, and fatigue in men.

5. Urological Problems

The nerve damage in men due to diabetes can also lead to issues with urological health. Problems include an overactive bladder, inability to control urination, and urinary tract infections (UTIs).

6. Genital Thrush

Thrush is a yeast infection caused by the overgrowth of a type of fungus called Candida. Genital thrush is when there is an overgrowth of the fungus in the genital area of men. 

In diabetes, the excess glucose present in the blood may get excreted in the urine. However, the sugar still acts as a nutrition source for the yeast to overgrow and cause an infection on the penis. Symptoms of genital thrush include redness, swelling, and itching around the head of the penis, foul odour, and discomfort during sex.

7. Reduced Muscle Mass

In diabetes, consistently raised blood sugar levels and the insufficient action of insulin may suppress the growth and proliferation of muscle cells, leading to a decline in skeletal muscle mass. This results in reduced strength and muscle weakness. This symptom of diabetes is more common in men with Type 1 diabetes. 

Watch out for these common and male-specific symptoms of diabetes, and seek immediate medical attention to get your blood glucose levels checked at the earliest. If your blood glucose levels are elevated (prediabetes) and you are at risk for Type 2 diabetes, a timely intervention into your diet and lifestyle may be able to prevent the condition from progressing to diabetes. 

If you are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you can manage the condition and prevent further complications with healthy lifestyle behaviours and appropriate medications.

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs due to insulin resistance and increased blood sugar levels. There are several symptoms of diabetes, some being common across all individuals, and some unique to men. 
  • Some diabetes symptoms common to men and women are increased thirst, increased hunger, frequent urination, blurry vision, exhaustion, and slow healing of wounds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Research suggests that diabetes can lead to reduced sperm quality but may not affect sperm motility (the ability of the sperm to move towards the egg) or cause infertility.

If you observe any symptoms of diabetes such as increased thirst or hunger, frequent urination, blurred vision, or fatigue, it is advisable to consult a doctor and get your blood glucose levels checked through a laboratory test. There are tests such as the fasting blood glucose test, the glycated hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test, and the glucose tolerance test, which can be used to check whether you have diabetes or not.

While urine is usually clear in diabetes, the extra glucose being removed through urine may make it cloudy. Diabetes may also cause your urine to smell sweet or fruity. If you notice a change in your urine, it is advised to get your blood glucose levels checked.

You cannot test yourself for diabetes at home. Home testing kits cannot diagnose diabetes. You can only check your blood glucose levels at a given moment with commercially available glucometer kits. After you test your blood glucose levels at home, it is advised to consult a doctor and get tests done at a laboratory to confirm the diagnosis and move forward with management of diabetes. 

Gestational diabetes or high blood glucose levels in pregnant women who were not previously diabetic, usually goes away naturally after the delivery of the child. If it does not go away, the condition is called Type 2 diabetes, after childbirth. Other types of diabetes, i.e., Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes do not go away and have to be managed with lifestyle measures and medications. 

Taking rapid-acting insulin either by injection or inhalation is the quickest way to lower blood sugar levels. Exercise can also lower your blood glucose levels for 24 hours or more. Exercise causes the body to demand glucose for energy. As a result, the cells deliver glucose to the muscles and blood sugar levels drop.

The best way to prevent diabetes is by making lifestyle changes like:

  1. Exercising regularly
  2. Reducing excess weight
  3. Following healthy eating habits
  4. Quitting smoking
  5. Drinking lots of water
  6. Getting a regular dose of vitamin D

It is difficult to diagnose if you have diabetes without a blood test. If you see the early signs and symptoms of diabetes such as increased thirst or hunger, frequent urination, blurry vision, or fatigue, you may have diabetes. Unique symptoms of diabetes in men include erectile dysfunction, urinary problems, reduced muscle mass, etc. A laboratory test for diabetes and consultation with a healthcare provider will help confirm the diagnosis and begin management of the condition.

Dr. Pakhi Sharma
Dr. Pakhi Sharma, MBBS
(General physician, 6+ years)
An expert in obstetrics and medical emergencies, Dr. Pakhi Sharma, an alumni of Sri Devaraj Urs University of Higher Education and Research Centre, is a general physician working at Phablecare. She has 6+ years of work experience spread across gynaecology and obstetrics, family medicine, and medical emergencies at renowned hospitals and clinics.

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