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Diabetes Symptoms to Watch for As A Man

July 29, 2018
Early Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes in Men - Lark Health

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Many of the symptoms of diabetes are the same in men and women, but there are some diabetes symptoms that only men experience.

Being familiar with both the symptoms common to both men and women, as well as additional symptoms of diabetes that are specific to men, can help you recognize if you may have diabetes or prediabetes. 

Why are diabetes symptoms in men so important? Consider these facts from the National Diabetes Statistics Report.

  • Men are about 25% more likely than women to have prediabetes, but are about 40% less likely to be aware of it.
  • Men are more likely to have diabetes than women.
  • Those with diabetes are likely to develop complications if they are not able to manage blood sugar.

In addition, as described in an article in Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews, progression to diabetes is likely within 5 to 10 years unless prediabetes management occurs.

Am I Likely to Get Diabetes?

Risk factors for type 2 diabetes include both non-modifiable and modifiable factors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that you are at higher risk for prediabetes and diabetes if any of the following apply to you. 

  • Age 45 years or older
  • Have a family history of diabetes
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Are physically inactive
  • Smoke
  • Have high total or LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol, or high triglycerides
  • Have high blood pressure or hypertension
  • Are Asian American, Pacific Islander, American Indian, Hispanic/Latino, Native Hawaiian, or African American.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, you can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by losing extra pounds, eating a nutritious diet, and getting regular exercise. Managing conditions such as high cholesterol or blood pressure can also help lower risk for diabetes. 

If you have prediabetes, you can sign up for a CDC-recognized Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). Participants in a DPP can lower risk for diabetes by over 50% just by making small changes in lifestyle. While some DPP are Lark offers an entirely-digital program that is convenient and easy to follow.

Common Symptoms of Diabetes in Men and Women

While symptoms of prediabetes or diabetes in men may be absent or subtle, symptoms of type 2 diabetes can occur. They can be a reflection of too much sugar in the blood, and symptoms of diabetes in men over 40 can include:

  • Increased thirst and more frequent urination.
  • Unexpected weight loss and fatigue, since sugar is not being processed properly
  • Impaired wound healing, skin infections, and numbness, due to damage to your blood vessels and poorer circulation.

These symptoms are listed by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). It is important to remember that these symptoms usually only occur after someone has diabetes. If you have prediabetes, you probably do not have symptoms, but can take steps to prevent them. Lark DPP can help you lose weight and make other changes that can fit into your lifestyle while you lower your risk of developing diabetes.

Diabetes Symptoms Unique to Men

How does diabetes affect men? Many of the symptoms of diabetes are the same in men and women, but the NIDDK explains that some symptoms and complications of diabetes are present in men only.

Diabetes complications in men can be related to sexual dysfunction and can include:

  • Erectile dysfunction (ED), which means you cannot achieve or hold an erection for long enough to have acceptable intercourse. The NIDDK says that half of men with diabetes get ED, and are three times more likely than men without diabetes to get ED.
  • Low testosterone, or "low T," can happen as you age, and is more likely when you are overweight and/or have type 2 diabetes. Testosterone is a sex hormone, and low levels can lead to depression, lack of energy, or reduced sex drive. Testosterone therapy with a patch, gel, or injection, can help, but it has side effects.
  • Retrograde ejaculation, which happens if semen goes into your bladder instead of your penis. This is not dangerous to you, but it can cause fertility problems that make conception more difficult. If you are trying to have a baby, you might be advised to change your diabetes care plan or to try intrauterine insemination (IUI) with a fertility specialist.
  • Other concerns, such as genital itching and Peyronie's disease (penile curvature), which can result from poor blood flow due to diabetic neuropathy.

Although discussing diabetes symptoms in men sexually can seem embarrassing, it is important to bring up any concerns with your doctor. Healthcare providers are trained to talk about these issues, and they can help you keep your sexual life as healthy and fulfilling as possible.

It is also important to recognize that these and other diabetes symptoms and complications are the result of poorly controlled blood sugar. You can prevent or delay these and other diabetes complications by taking steps to manage diabetes if you already have it, or to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes if you have prediabetes. 

Why Preventing Diabetes Matters

Type 2 diabetes is no longer a disease that only old folks get. It is becoming more common among younger people. Symptoms of diabetes in men over 30 are the same symptoms that might be familiar to you if you have seen your parents or grandparents manage diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes symptoms in men are more pronounced, but are the same as those listed above. They come on more suddenly, over the course of days or weeks. In contrast, type 2 diabetes can take years to develop.

Even though diabetes symptoms in men over 50 may be subtle, or they may seem like more of a nuisance than a medical emergency, they should not be ignored. They could indicate the presence of diabetes or prediabetes, since men are at particular risk.

Getting diabetes or prediabetes diagnosed means you can take appropriate steps to lower blood sugar. With prediabetes, that could mean enrolling in Lark DPP to help you lower risk for diabetes in a convenient, smartphone-based lifestyle coaching program. If you already have diabetes, managing it properly means you can prevent or delay complications such as blindness, kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease.

How Is Diabetes Different in Men Compared to Women?

The way type 2 diabetes develops in men versus women is the same, with insulin resistance gradually developing and blood sugar levels eventually rising. However, men have higher rates of diabetes, according to the CDC. In 2015, 12.7% of American men, compared to 11.7% of women, had type 2 diabetes. 

This may be partly related to men being biologically more susceptible than women. One study, published in "Diabetologia", looked at the relationship between body weight and diabetes diagnosis among 51,920 men and 43,137 women. Results showed that men tend to be diagnosed with diabetes at a lower body mass index (BMI) than women. The research results suggest that while extra body weight is a risk factor for both genders, it is more dangerous for women. 

Why does extra body fat appear to be more dangerous for men than women? It is probably related to where the fat is stored in the body. Women tend to have a "pear-shaped" body, with more fat accumulating around the hips and thighs. In contrast, men tend to have "apple-shaped" bodies, with more fat accumulating around organs in the mid-section. More importantly, this abdominal fat has negative metabolic effects.

Types of Diabetes in Men

The types of diabetes in men are type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, your pancreas can no longer produce insulin. In type 2 diabetes, which includes 90 to 95% of cases, your body's cells are more resistant to insulin's effects. Before type 2 diabetes develops, men experience a condition called prediabetes.

1. Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which your immune system attacks and destroys beta cells, which are the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin. The causes of type 1 diabetes are unknown. There is probably a genetic factor, and usually there is an environmental trigger, such as a viral infection. Type 1 diabetes most commonly appears during childhood or adolescence.

2. Type 2 Diabetes

How does diabetes happen? Type 2 diabetes is linked to insulin resistance in the cells of your body. Excessive amounts of blood glucose create an increasingly higher demand for insulin. Eventually, the pancreas cannot make enough insulin to keep up with demand, and blood sugar levels rise. 

Diabetes is among the most common chronic conditions in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, reports that in 2018, about 1 in 11, or 30.3 million, adults had diabetes, and that included 12 million, or 1 in 4, adults 65 or older.

3. Prediabetes

Prediabetes is a condition that develops before type 2 diabetes. With prediabetes, blood sugar is higher than normal, but lower than in diabetes. Prediabetes rarely causes symptoms, but there is one symptom that is more likely than others in prediabetes. This symptom is called acanthosis nigricans, which is darkening of the skin on the back of the neck, elbows, or armpits. One other possible symptom of prediabetes is a change in vision as an early sign of retinopathy.

In 2018, 88 million, or 1 in 3, American adults, had prediabetes. That number includes nearly half of adults 65 years or older. Prediabetes affects 38% of men and 31.2% of women, which means that it is more common in men.

What Is Diabetes, and Why Does It Happen?

In the normal case, your blood glucose levels rise after a meal as your body processes the carbohydrates and other nutrients in it. The increase in your blood sugar levels triggers your pancreas to release a hormone called insulin into your bloodstream. Insulin helps lower your blood sugar levels back down by allowing the extra glucose to get into the cells of your body that need it for energy, and storing the rest as fat.

If you have diabetes symptoms, you can get medical help to see whether you have diabetes, and if so, to get help managing your diabetes and preventing complications. The earlier you get help, the better you can manage your condition to stay healthy. Taking charge early means you can work on practicing self-management strategies, such as eating right, testing your blood sugar, and getting active. Early action also gives you the chance to use tools, such as Lark for Diabetes Diabetes Health Coach, that can help you make these healthy behaviors into lifelong habits. 

Diabetes Study and Research among Men

Type 2 diabetes is far more common in men than type 1 diabetes, with type 2 diabetes accounting for about 19 out of 20 cases of diabetes. Diabetes is the seventh-leading cause of  death in the United States, but that figure is misleading, since diabetes is a major risk factor for:

  • Heart disease (top cause of death)
  • Stroke (fifth-leading cause of death)
  • Kidney disease (ninth-leading cause of death).

Proper management of diabetes and prediabetes can reduce the risk of early death from diabetes. Men who are diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes should follow a care program, but many men are unaware that they have high blood sugar. About 89.4% of men with prediabetes do not know that they have it, and almost 25% of men with diabetes are unaware of it.

Understanding Options for Prediabetes and Diabetes

You can support optimal health when you understand your treatment options, which allows you to be proactive and in control. Ideally, select a doctor and other care team members who are knowledgeable and available to answer your questions. As you monitor your blood sugar levels, you can feel empowered by seeing the control you have over them, and confident that you can continue to take the necessary steps to stay healthy.

Also ask your healthcare team what additional support is available. You may be entitled to reimbursement for participating in instructional programs with initial and ongoing support, for example. You might also be eligible to use programs such as Lark, which is a health coach available 24/7 on your smartphone.

Signs and symptoms are unlikely to appear during prediabetes, so don't wait for them! Instead, it is time to take action if you have prediabetes or have other risk factors for developing diabetes. You could be at risk for type 2 diabetes and eligible for a Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) if you have one or more risk factors such as being overweight or obese, being over 45 years old, being physically inactive, or having a family history of type 2 diabetes. 

Lark Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) offers coaching through your smartphone to help manage prediabetes and lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Your Lark coach is always available to help with lifestyle choices that can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes. Lark is designed to help you establish healthy habits around areas, such as weight loss, nutrition, physical activity, and even sleep and stress management, that can effectively lower blood sugar and help avoid symptoms of diabetes. Plus, you may even get a free scale or Fitbit!

The entire program is available at no cost to you if your health insurer participates. Click here to find out if you may be eligible for Lark! Lark is completely convenient and ready to chat whenever you are. You could be minutes away from taking the first steps to managing prediabetes and improving health.

About Lark

Lark helps you eat better, move more, stress less, and improve your overall wellness. Lark’s digital coach is available 24/7 on your smartphone to give you personalized tips, recommendations, and motivation to lose weight and prevent chronic conditions like diabetes.

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