Erectile dysfunction? Yes, that’s one of the side effects of diabetes.

It’s a staggering fact that 8 percent of the U.S. population (that’s 26 million children and adults) suffers from diabetes, a lifelong disease that impacts the way the body handles glucose in the blood.

But men develop diabetes slightly more than women do. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 13.6 percent of men were estimated to have diabetes as of 2012, compared with 11.2 percent of women.

The American Diabetes Association notes that because men tend to ignore their health issues, their lives are often shorter and more fraught with illness than women’s. Just as it does in women, diabetes can cause complications such as neuropathy and eye problems in men.

But men can also experience specific sexual health issues as a result of diabetes. Men are more likely to have urological and sexual problems if they fall under the following categories:

  • blood sugar  above the normal range (fasting blood sugar should be under 100 mg/dl)
  • high blood pressure or high cholesterol
  • smoker and/or overweight
  • older than 40
  • physically inactive
  • Diabetes 2 may cause the following health issues in men:

Low testosterone

Type 2 diabetes doubles the risk for having low testosterone. When the male hormone drops, it can result in symptoms such as low energy, muscle loss, depression and sexual problems, including low libido and erectile dysfunction (ED). Your primary physician can check your testosterone level and offer medications to treat the problem.

Erectile dysfunction

Men with diabetes are much more more likely to experience erectile dysfunction than men who don’t have diabetes, according to a report published in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy. High blood sugar harms small blood vessels or nerves, which can affect a man’s ability to get an erection.

Some diabetes medications can cause sexual side effects like ED, which can be treated. ED should be treated as soon as the patient experiences the symptoms in order to solve the problem.

“Some patients with ED do not realize that their diabetes plays a role,” said Mike M. Nguyen, MD, MPH, associate professor of clinical urology. “These patients often also have obesity and hypertension, additional risk factors for erectile dysfunction.”

Urologic issues

Diabetes can harm the nerves that control the bladder. This may cause urological issues such as an overactive bladder and urinary tract infections.

Urine retention, which leads to incomplete or infrequent urination, is another possible result of high blood sugar. It can also cause kidney damage in the long run.

“Patients with diabetes are also at increased risk for being diagnosed with urologic cancers including prostate cancer and kidney cancer,” Dr. Nguyen added.

Ways to fight the problem

Many health complications caused by diabetes can be addressed and treated. The first thing to do is discuss your specific symptoms with your physician. You also need to address the sexual problems with your partner at home openly. If you are embarrassed or find it too difficult to share the issues with your doctor, you can write them down, email your doctor that you want to share some sensitive information with them in advance.

There are certain actions you can take to fight high blood sugar. They include:

  • Eating a balanced diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains
  • Avoiding excess sugar and calories
  • Quitting smoking
  • Exercising regularly — just walking for 30 minutes a day can make a big difference in lowering your blood sugar
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. Even losing two to three pounds per year helps battle diabetes 2 in the long run.

“Weight control may help both control diabetes and directly reduce urological side effects,” Dr. Nguyen said.

By Ramin Zahed

If you think you may be at risk for diabetes or are experiencing some of the symptoms of the disease, talk to your primary care physician.

If you are local to Southern California and are in search of a primary care physician, call  (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or visit http://keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/ to schedule an appointment.