People with type 1 diabetes will need to take insulin for the rest of their lives. While it most often occurs in children and adolescents, it can occur at any age.
The same signs appear in type 1 diabetes as type 2 diabetes, except that they are usually more obvious and less gradual. The exception to this is weight loss. People often lose weight with type 1 diabetes. This is because they are often unable to use sugar for energy and must rely on the fat and muscle stores of the body.
Type 2 diabetes is due to either the body being resistant to insulin, not enough insulin being produced by the pancreas, or both. Factors that increase the risk for type 2 diabetes include being overweight, having a family history of diabetes, and an inactive lifestyle.
While traditionally seen mainly in adults, type 2 diabetes is being seen more and more in younger people.
General signs of diabetes in men and women
Blood sugar levels become too high in both these main type of diabetes. They lead to the classic early signs of the condition:
One complication of long-term diabetes is erectile dysfunction.
- Increased thirst
- Passing more urine, and going more often
- Increased urination at night
- Increased hunger
- Blurry vision
- For type 2, sores or cuts that won't heal
- For type 1, weight loss before diagnosis
It is important to get these symptoms checked out by a doctor if they occur.
Over time, complications can develop as a result of long-term high blood sugar levels.
Some people may develop complications before they know they have diabetes. Often, getting treatment for a complication is the first time a man finds out he has the condition.
Regular checkups for men who are at risk of getting diabetes can help provide an early diagnosis before any complications or even early signs develop.
Of particular interest to men with diabetes is erectile dysfunction. It is one of the complications that sometimes affects men with long-term diabetes.
Diabetes and male sex problems
Both men and women can have problems with sex resulting from long-term high blood sugar levels. Women can experience less lubrication and desire for sex.
Men can develop the problem of erectile dysfunction. This means they can be unable to have sex at all because of effects that prevent an erection of the penis, or cause the erection not to last long enough.
Erections rely on blood flow to the penis and a good nerve supply to make them happen.
Diabetes can affect the blood vessels and nerves of the body if blood sugar levels are not well controlled.
These complications progress in the same way as those that can lead, for example, to a loss of feeling in the feet. These are caused by nerve damage known as neuropathy.
The damaged blood supply affects:
- The stimulation and response of the nerves that trigger and maintain an erection
- The flow of blood into the penis
It is important - and okay - to talk about erection problems
Doctors will certainly have no problem at all with men talking to them about problems with sex. Erection problems are often dealt with by doctors. They are not embarrassed about them, and they can offer help.
Doctors are interested in helping with medical problems, and with psychological problems, too. Psychological problems can be caused by erectile dysfunction itself. They can also be the cause of erectile dysfunction in some cases. Diabetes can also cause problems such as depression.
Medical help can identify and help with other risk factors for erection problems. These can include lifestyle factors such as smoking, being overweight, and not getting enough physical activity.
Many people may feel more comfortable sharing their experiences through the internet without being identified. But seeing a doctor is important for getting help with the problem and dealing with its causes. This is particularly important if the cause of the problem is diabetes.
The male body and diabetes risk
A study published in in the journal BMJ Open in 2016 found that men are at a high risk of diabetes after less relative gain in their weight than women are.
Men tend to put on fat in more risky areas of the body than women.
The research analyzed some 480,813 participants. The authors found that the men varied less in their body sizes than the women at the time of their diabetes diagnosis.
In summary, one way of interpreting the research is to say that men:
- Get diabetes "more easily" than women
- At a more predictable level of body fat gain
The study confirmed earlier research that analyzed 2,437 adults diagnosed with type 2 diabetes out of a total of over 95,000 study participants.
This found that people who had a higher body mass index (BMI) got diabetes at an earlier age.
Published in the journal Diabetologia in 2011, it also found the same for men as the 2016 study: that men are less obese around the time of their diabetes diagnosis than women.
The lower fat threshold in men than women was most noticeable at younger ages. Older men and women diagnosed with diabetes were more similar in body size.
Obesity is indicated by a BMI of 30 or more. The 2011 study found that around the time of their diagnosis with type 2 diabetes, men had an average BMI of just under 32. Women had an average approaching 34 and so were at a higher BMI level than men when they developed diabetes.
The 2016 study also measured waist circumference, which has become the preferred indicator of health risks. The results showed:
- The men would get type 2 diabetes if they put an average of 9 centimeters on their waist size, or an average rise of 3 in their BMI
- The women would be diagnosed after an average waist increase of 9 centimeters, or a BMI going up by 5
The gain in waist circumferences also differed less across the men with or without diabetes compared with the women.
Women could carry a variety of waist circumferences before developing diabetes. Their waist variety was nearly five times greater than the men's.
Men carry fat in more risky places than women
Men are more at risk of diabetes than women after putting on weight. Explanation of why could come from observations about how men store fat.
It is now recognized that:
- Men tend to store more belly and deep fat around the abdomen than women, including putting on more fat around the liver
- Women tend to store more fat below their skin and around the hips and buttocks instead of in the abdominal area
Women appear to be protected by their hormonal differences. The effect of the hormone estrogen goes with the menopause, however. After this point, women tend to deposit fat in a way more similar to men.
Tests and diagnosis of diabetes
The major risk factor - for men over 45 in particular - is overweight and obesity. Compared with the way fat is deposited on women's bodies, men also put on weight in a way that is riskier for diabetes.
A blood sugar test can reveal high sugars at a lower level before they are bad enough to produce the signs and symptoms of diabetes. Such levels can be high enough, however, to greatly raise the risk of developing full type 2 diabetes.
Getting a blood test is recommended for all men over the age of 45 who are overweight. Any other man with a risk factor for raised blood sugars should also get a test. An example is high blood pressure or high blood fats (high cholesterol).