9 Signs of Diabetes in Men that Shouldn’t Be Ignored
More than 86 million American adults have prediabetes—and 90 percent of those people have no idea. The condition increases your risk for developing full-blown type 2 diabetes, as well as heart disease, and stroke. Here are warnings that your blood sugar is starting to rise.
Men need to watch for type 2 diabetes
Unfortunately, guys, type 2 diabetes is more common for you than it is for women. This is especially pronounced at middle age when men are twice as likely to develop the condition. And while weight gain can contribute to problems with blood sugar levels—a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, men can develop these issues at a lower body mass index (BMI—a measure that combines height and weight) than women, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are the signs men need to watch for.
Due to the nerve and artery damage triggered by perpetually high blood sugar, diabetes can triple the likelihood that you’ll have performance problems down there. One study in the Journal of International Medical Research found that 89 percent of men who had metabolic syndrome experienced erectile dysfunction. This is an early sign of diabetes that men are likely to act on: “A man will realize something is wrong right away and seek help,” says Margaret Eckert-Norton, RN, PhD, a certified diabetes educator and chair of the Endocrine Society’s Advocacy and Public Outreach Core Committee and associate professor at St. Joseph’s College in New York City. She adds that there are effective treatments for both diabetes and erectile dysfunction. “Don’t hesitate to get checked out,” she says.
This is one of those signs of diabetes in men you might not think about. Higher blood sugar levels promote yeast growth and infections. “These are similar yeast infections as what women would get,” says Eckert-Norton. Except where they’re located, of course. She notes that men may develop these infections under the foreskin on their penis, particularly if they’re uncircumcised. There’s a natural solution for yeast infections that men can try.
Frequent urination is a sign of diabetes—actually, there are at least nine medical conditions that can have you tied to the bathroom. While you may or may not notice it during the day, you are likely to notice it at night—especially if you’re getting up every couple hours to go. It could also be caused by an enlarged prostate, says Eckert-Norton. “A man will get their prostate checked and think they’re addressing the problem. Type 2 diabetes can sometimes be overlooked,” she says.
Having to get up to go to the bathroom all night could leave you exhausted—but the fatigue may also be due to rising blood sugar. Proper insulin levels “allow glucose to enter into cells from your bloodstream and contribute the energy your body needs to function,” says Eckert-Norton. “My patients have felt tired up to a year before their diagnosis,” she adds. If fatigue is something new for you (and can’t necessarily be chalked up to new or increasing stress), get checked out. It could be one of these eight other reasons for fatigue, as well.
Family medical history
Does type 2 diabetes run in your family? It might be one of the early signs of diabetes in men, or it could signal you may develop the condition in the future. In fact, in a study on 8,000 people, those who had a family history of type 2 had a 26 percent risk, per 2013 research in Diabetologia. It’s always a good idea to keep your family medical history at the top of mind and get regular workups at the doctor to watch blood glucose measurements like a1c, a gauge of your blood sugar levels over a three-month period. Plus, there are many lessons you can learn by paying attention to the health of your parents and siblings.
While it is normal to gain weight as you age, you still need to keep an eye on it: Research in BMJ Open in 2016 found that men tend to gain less weight than women when they have diabetes. So even a small amount of weight gain should be on your radar. Not only can your appetite be off the rails when your blood sugar levels aren’t normal, but lifestyle choices can pack on weight, too. Sure, you may go out with the guys and have a few beers, what’s the big deal? “When that happens in the context of prediabetes or diabetes, it can set off bad metabolic consequences,” says Eckert-Norton. Alcohol is not only toxic to your pancreas, which helps your body maintain its blood sugar levels, but beer is loaded with calories and carbohydrates that can contribute to weight gain. That said, men may gain less weight than women when they have diabetes, studies show. (If you’re trying to shed a few pounds, avoid making one of these other prediabetic diet mistakes.)
Chest pain during exercise
Are you a couch potato Monday through Friday but a warrior on the weekends? Metabolic problems related to prediabetes, like high blood pressure, place you at a greater risk for problems like chest pain or ischemia. (Some chest pains have nothing to do with your heart.) “Things that you’re not accustomed to doing, like shoveling snow, are suddenly your own stress test,” says Eckert-Norton. Exercise is important, but the key is to strike a balance between leisure and exercise, and progress by slowly increasing exercise frequency or intensity. Pay attention to your feet and make sure you’re not developing diabetic blisters.
Along with sexual problems like erectile dysfunction, having metabolic syndrome (which puts you at risk for type 2 diabetes) has also been linked with premature ejaculation. In fact, it may be one of the signs of diabetes in men. In a study in European Urology, 23 percent of patients studied reported premature ejaculation and 5 percent experienced delayed ejaculation. Lifestyle changes, like weight loss and exercise, can make just as much of a difference in your sexual function as targeted therapies, say researchers.
This one is scary because—particularly if you’re still in the prediabetes stage—you may have no symptoms for years, according to the CDC. On average, people can have blood sugar issues “for six to seven years before diagnosis. It’s a slow march,” says Eckert-Norton. In a 2017 study, only 6 percent of primary care doctors could pinpoint all the diabetes risk factors that would suggest someone get screened. All the more important to advocate for your own health. Bring up your concerns and questions, and go to your doctor annually. You can prevent diabetes with these strategies.
See your doctor
If you’re experiencing any signs of diabetes, see your doctor right away. When you have prediabetes, fasting blood glucose levels are creeping up, but aren’t high enough to diagnose full-blown diabetes. Still, any change like that can be associated with heart disease, says Eckert-Norton. “Men get heart disease earlier than women, so you should go to regular checkups and get screened, particularly if you have a family history of hypertension, heart disease, or diabetes,” she says. And look into changing your diet to protect yourself—here are the best and worst foods for prediabetes.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: National Diabetes Statistics Report 2020
- Journal of International Medical Research: “Study of the relationship between male erectile dysfunction and type 2 diabetes mellitus/metabolic syndrome and its components”
- Margaret Eckert-Norton, RN, PhD, CDE, chair of the Endocrine Society’s Advocacy and Public Outreach Core Committee and associate professor at St. Joseph’s College in New York City
- Diabetologia: “Family history of diabetes is associated with higher risk for prediabetes: a multicentre analysis from the German Center for Diabetes Research”
- BMJ Open: “Sex differences in body anthropometry and composition in individuals with and without diabetes in the UK Biobank”
- European Urology: “Psychobiologic Correlates of the Metabolic Syndrome and Associated Sexual Dysfunction”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Prediabetes - Your Chance to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
- Journal of General Internal Medicine: “Survey of primary care providers’ knowledge of screening for, diagnosing and managing prediabetes”