Type 2 diabetes can affect your health in various ways. It’s important to look out for common symptoms so you can get help as soon as possible.
In this article, we’ll cover symptoms commonly experienced by men with type 2 diabetes, risk factor, and how to prevent and manage the condition once diagnosed.
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Erectile dysfunction¹ (ED) is the inability to initiate or maintain an erection. This is a common problem for men with type 2 diabetes, with evidence suggesting more than 50%² of all men with diabetes experience erectile dysfunction.
Retrograde ejaculation³ occurs when some semen is released into the bladder. This may result in a noticeably reduced amount of semen released during ejaculation.
Low testosterone occurs when the body produces less testosterone, the male sex hormone. This is a common symptom of men with type 2 diabetes and can cause unexplained weight loss, low libido, and mood changes. Any of these symptoms are a reason to visit the doctor.
Damage to the autonomic nervous system⁴ (ANS) impacts the involuntary nerve responses of the body. This can impact blood pressure, digestion, and even sexual performance.
The risk of type 2 diabetes usually increases with age.
Men with type 2 diabetes in the family line are more likely to develop the condition themselves.⁵
Being overweight means extra fatty tissue is resistant to insulin, which affects the insulin response to blood sugar.
Having more abdominal fat can create a greater risk of type 2 diabetes. Men with a waist circumference greater than 40 inches⁶ should be aware of this risk.
Smoking can increase the risk⁷ of type 2 diabetes by around 30–40%. Smoking can also lead to more serious health complications, like heart disease and long-term trouble managing insulin levels.
Quitting smoking can help prevent diabetes but also make managing diabetes easier.
Regular exercise can help maintain weight and boost metabolism. It also affects how the body responds to insulin and has a major role in how glucose is used in the body.
Getting 150 minutes per week of moderate to intense exercise can significantly decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Simply staying active and interrupting long sitting periods can help manage the condition.
When overweight, men could consider losing 5 to 7%⁸ of their body fat. Fatty tissue impacts insulin resistance, inhibiting the body’s use of glucose and increasing blood sugar levels.
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most effective ways to prevent type 2 diabetes.
Metformin⁹ is usually the first kind of medication patients with type 2 diabetes will be prescribed.
It works by lowering glucose production in the liver, thus improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin and increasing the efficacy with which the body uses it.
However, there are some possible side effects to this treatment, including:
Sulfonylureas¹⁰ can also help the body to secrete more insulin. Here are some examples of sulfonylureas used in the management of type 2 diabetes:
Insulin therapy is also a major component of type 2 diabetes management.
If lifestyle changes and medications fail to have the desired effect on blood sugar levels, a person may be prescribed insulin therapy¹¹. There are different types of insulin therapy. They vary in how long they work and how soon they impact blood sugar.
Long-acting insulin works overnight or throughout the day to maintain stable blood sugar levels.
In contrast, short-acting insulin may be used to control a blood sugar spike at meal times.
A doctor will determine what insulin treatment is ideal for every individual. Usually, insulin treatment occurs through insulin injections. Some side¹² effects of insulin therapy include the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), which can cause headaches, sweating, dizziness, blurred vision, and abdominal pain.
Any of the above are a cause for concern, so seek medical advice if any or all of these symptoms develop.
Diabetes can also be managed through lifestyle changes,¹³ and it is important to be aware of the factors contributing to increases and decreases in blood sugar levels.
When managing type 2 diabetes, it is important to develop a daily routine. This must be easy to stick to but strict enough to have real results. Once a habit is established, managing type 2 diabetes becomes much easier.
People with type 2 diabetes should aim to eat as healthily as possible. Food plays a major role in blood sugar rise and fall, so it is essential to be aware of the foods that may trigger these changes.
Healthy eating is vital for anyone, regardless of whether they have type 2 diabetes. Still, food combinations and quantities also play a major role in blood sugar levels, not simply what foods are consumed.
A whole foods plant-based diet may help considerably to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and aid weight management.
The glycemic index¹⁴ can be a helpful measure for making healthier eating choices. The glycemic index is a rating system of food containing carbohydrates, making it easier to understand how different ones will impact blood sugar levels and how quickly this occurs.
This is because carbohydrates are broken down and converted into energy at different rates. Simple carbohydrates, like those found in sweets and other sugary foods, are broken down much faster than the complex carbohydrates in whole grain foods.
As a result, sugary foods correspond to a rapid blood sugar spike, while whole grain foods induce a slower blood sugar response. This is key when managing diabetes, as, over time, these surges and falls in blood sugar can play a role in whether or not people become insulin resistant.
Fresh produce is also a key component in this diet, as these foods are often low GI and high in fiber. This means they maintain levels of fullness and stop people from overeating. This may also aid weight management.
Type 2 diabetes can be managed with healthy food such as:
Regular exercise also plays a vital role in diabetes management. If you are able, staying active can positively impact weight management, energy usage, and overall well-being.
Most doctors prescribe a regular exercise regime for people with type 2 diabetes, alongside a healthy diet.
For people with diabetes, alcohol consumption¹⁵ may cause either a rise or fall in blood sugar levels. As alcohol has a lot of calories, it is unwise to drink more than a single drink, especially if blood sugar is not well-controlled.
Alcohol may also interfere with the positive results of oral diabetic medicines or insulin, so those with the condition should be careful about the timing of any alcohol consumption.
High levels¹⁶ of stress can cause short-term spikes in blood sugar. Studies¹⁷ show that people with diabetes are proven to have higher rates of anxiety and depression — which can, in turn, make maintaining regular blood sugar levels difficult.
It is important to try and manage and reduce stress. Here are some tips for releasing tension:
Learn relaxation techniques
Practice deep breathing
Take nature walks
Make life changes to do more of what you enjoy
Consider what makes you stressed and see if there are ways to avoid potential triggers
It is essential to visit a doctor when any of the following symptoms arise:
Damage to the autonomic immune system
Increased frequency or urgency of urination
Type 2 diabetes is a serious health concern. It is important to be aware of the symptoms and causes of the condition and visit a doctor if you experience erectile dysfunction, retrograde ejaculation, low testosterone, damage to the autonomic immune system, or increased urination.
A good relationship with your doctor is key to developing an effective management regime for type 2 diabetes. While there is currently no known cure for the condition, with the right help, advice, and lifestyle changes, most men find they can manage their type 2 diabetes effectively and enjoy a relatively normal way of life.
Waist size matters | Harvard T.H. Chan
Type 2 diabetes: Which medication is best for me? | Harvard Health Publishing
Sulfonylureas | NIH: National Library of Health
Insulin | NIH: National Library of Health
Stress and diabetes mellitus (1992)
Exercise and type 2 diabetes (2010)
Insulin | NIH: National Library of Health
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