Diabetes Symptoms in Men: Signs and What to Do

Katelyn Hagerty FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 11/19/2020

Diabetes is a serious condition, and for most people, it’s preventable. 

Despite its seriousness, it’s also relatively common. Over 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and over 84 million people over the age of 18 are considered prediabetic. 

And yet, about a quarter of people with diabetes aren’t even aware they have the disease — likely because they don’t know what to look for. 

Having unusual symptoms can be scary, and particularly when you think they could be a sign of something serious like diabetes. 

Understanding diabetic symptoms can help you determine if you should make a call to your healthcare provider. However, if you’re experiencing any unpleasant (and especially unexplainable) health symptoms, a healthcare professional can help you understand what it means. 

What Is Diabetes? 

Put simply, diabetes is when the amount of glucose (or sugar) in your blood is too high

Your blood sugar is responsible for carrying energy, mainly from food, throughout your body. But with diabetes, that glucose stays in your blood when insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, isn’t able to deliver that glucose to your cells. 

These chronic high blood glucose levels can lead to significant health problems.

There are two different kinds of diabetes. 

Type 1 diabetes occurs when your pancreas doesn’t make enough (or any) insulin. This type of diabetes is more rare, affecting only five percent to 10 percent of diabetics. It’s believed to be autoimmune disease and is not preventable. Generally, type 1 diabetics are diagnosed in children and young adults, which is why it used to be referred to as “juvenile diabetes.” 

Type 2 diabetes is more common and can develop at any age. However, you’re more likely to develop type 2 diabetes if you’re the age of 45 and over, are overweight or obese or have a family history of diabetes.

With this kind of diabetes, your body doesn’t respond to insulin the way it should. This “insulin resistance” causes your pancreas to work overtime, trying to give you enough insulin to deliver the glucose from your blood to your cells, but it’s unsuccessful, resulting in high blood sugar. 

Type 2 diabetes is preventable, and affects more than 90 percent of the more than 34 million Americans with diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than likely, if you’ve stumbled across this blog post for more information on diabetes symptoms, you’re looking to read about type 2 diabetes. So, that’s what the bulk of this article will be about. 

However, if you’re interested in learning more about type 1 diabetes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Diabetes Association are good resources.

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Symptoms of Diabetes in Men

Diabetes symptoms don’t generally happen overnight. Because your body generally experiences insulin resistance (often called prediabetes) before a diabetes diagnosis is warranted, the symptoms can happen gradually, and sometimes be unnoticeable until they are severe.

Some symptoms of diabetes are of specific concern to men. They include: 

Erectile dysfunction

Erection health depends on several mechanisms, including but not limited to: blood flow to the penis, proper neurological function and high levels of nitric oxide

All of these factors can be affected by diabetes. 

Primarily, reduced blood flow to the penis due to atherosclerosis (or fatty buildup in blood vessels) prevents the rush of blood flow from reaching the penis. 

Related, nitric oxide levels, responsible for allowing that blood to enter (and stay in the penis) are often low in diabetic men. 

Finally, diabetic neuropathy, or damage to the nerves, is a complication  of diabetes. Chronically high blood sugar levels can disrupt nerve signals from the brain to the penis, and vice versa.

Thrush (candida) 

Thrush is a yeast infection, and yes men can get yeast infections, too. Men with diabetes are more prone to infection from candida albicans, a type of fungus. It can infect your mouth or your penis.

Symptoms of thrush include burning and irritation under the foreskin or on the head of the penis, redness, a cottage cheese type discharge, and difficulty pulling back your foreskin. 

Oral thrush can be marked by white patches inside the mouth, redness and irritation, and an unpleasant taste.

Muscle loss 

Diabetes is associated with the loss of lean body mass, specifically muscle. High blood sugar causes your muscles to atrophy, or waste away. 

It’s believed this is because insulin promotes cell growth, so a lack of insulin or inability of the body to use it properly results in less muscle cell growth. 

The inability to create new muscle tissue can ultimately lead to muscle loss.

Additional diabetes symptoms may include: 

  • Frequent urination, often more frequent at night

  • Unintentional weight loss 

  • Extreme thirst

  • Blurred vision

  • Hunger

  • Tingling or numb hands and feet

  • Fatigue 

  • Dry skin

  • Slow-healing wounds or sores 

  • More infections than normal 

If you suspect you may have diabetes, your healthcare provider can do a simple blood test to test your blood sugar levels, and get you on a path toward diagnosis. 

Diabetes Risk Factors

If you have a family history of diabetes, your risk of being diabetic may be higher. Also, certain racial-ethnic groups experience diabetes at higher rates, including: African Americans, Indigineous Americans, Pacific Islanders, Asian Americans, and Latinos.

The causes of type 2 diabetes are largely preventable, however. 

Being overweight or obese can put you at elevated risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Specifically, having extra fat in your midsection or belly is particularly harmful, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Related, not being physically active can put you at a greater risk of diabetes. 

What to Do If You Suspect Diabetes 

If you have reason to believe you might be diabetic or prediabetic, contact your healthcare provider. Catching the disease early may help prevent complications. 

Diabetes can be managed with lifestyle changes and medication. These lifestyle changes can keep you healthier overall, by helping you lose weight and reducing your risk factors for other conditions such as heart disease.

Left untreated or poorly managed, diabetes can lead to problems with your vision, circulation, skin healing and infections, and nerve damage. 

It can also lead to kidney disease, high blood pressure, erectile dysfunction, and stroke. 

So if you spot diabetes symptoms, don’t ignore them. 

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

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