Diabetes Symptoms in Men: What Are They?

By Jennifer Nadel, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
September 23, 2022

Diabetes can occur in both men and women, but some symptoms will affect men differently. In this article, we’ll discuss unique diabetes symptoms in men, common symptoms in both sexes, risk factors, and treatments. Plus, we’ll cover how to know when you should see a medical provider.

Diabetes Symptoms in Men

Diabetes causes some common symptoms in people, regardless of their sex. But in men, diabetes can lead to some specific symptoms. Understanding how diabetes can affect men is important so that you know how to communicate with your healthcare provider and receive effective treatment.

Erectile dysfunction

Erectile dysfunction (ED) refers to an inability to achieve or maintain erection. Many health issues can contribute to ED, like high blood pressure, tobacco use, and stress. However, diabetes is a major risk factor for erectile dysfunction, affecting as many as 50% of males who have diabetes.

When there is sexual arousal, an increase in blood flow to the penis brings about an erection which is sustained long enough to allow for penetration and ejaculation. Diabetes can decrease circulation to the penis because it damages blood vessels. It can also cause nerve damage, which negatively impacts how the nervous system responds to sexual stimulation.

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Retrograde ejaculation

Retrograde ejaculation happens when semen is released into the bladder. The main symptom is a decrease in how much semen is released during ejaculation. Retrograde ejaculation is not harmful, but it can contribute to male infertility.

Other urologic issues

Diabetes can contribute to certain urologic problems in men. These can include overactive bladder, urinary tract infections (UTIs), benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and loss of bladder control.

Low testosterone

Diabetes can contribute to hormonal imbalances in men. It may result in low testosterone levels, which can cause symptoms such as decreased libido, erectile dysfunction, increased body fat, fatigue, and more.

Decreased sex drive

Because diabetes can cause erectile dysfunction and low testosterone, it can have a significant impact on sexual drive in men.

Symptoms in Both Men and Women

Some symptoms of diabetes are common and can affect both men and women.

In type 1 diabetes, unexplained weight loss can also be a symptom when blood sugar is uncontrolled.

Risk Factors for Diabetes in Men

Certain factors can increase the risk of diabetes in men.

  • Smoking and tobacco use
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Lack of physical activity
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • High cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol
  • Being over age 45
  • Being of certain racial/ethnic backgrounds, including African-American, Native American, Hispanic, Asian-American, and Pacific Islander

Diabetes Treatments for Men

Diabetes treatment for men includes controlling the blood sugar level but also treats the other symptoms and side effects of diabetes.

Erectile dysfunction medication

For men with diabetes who experience erectile dysfunction, they are first treated with the aim of bringing their blood glucose levels down to normal. Normal blood glucose level can be achieved with diet and lifestyle changes, as well as medications. In cases where ED persists despite a well controlled blood sugar level, then medications that are used to treat ED may be prescribed.

These include sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), avanafil (Stendra), and others.

Testosterone supplements

To support balanced testosterone, a medical provider may recommend testosterone medication, which may be given as injections, patches, or gels.

There is limited evidence to support the safety and efficacy of herbal supplements like fenugreek or ashwagandha. Many are claiming that these herbal preparations may increase testosterone levels. However, most of the research was done in healthy populations and was limited in other ways.

Several dietary supplements claim to be able to increase testosterone, but these are not backed by evidence. Before trying supplements to increase testosterone, ask a medical provider to ensure that there is no risk for interactions with your current medications or other health conditions.

Diabetes medication

There are several types of medications that can be used to in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. They may be taken by mouth or as injections under the skin (subcutaneously), and into the vein (intravenously). These medications lower glucose levels by changing the way that the body stores or absorbs it.

They may also increase insulin sensitivity, or change the way that the liver makes more glucose.

Commonly prescribed diabetes medications are:

  • Metformin (Glucophage, Fortamet)
  • Sodium-glucose cotransporter-2 (SGLT2) inhibitors (Farxiga)
  • Meglitinides (Prandin, Starlix)
  • Sulfonylureas (Glyburide)
  • Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) agonists (Trulicity)

Lifestyle changes

In addition to medication, diabetes symptoms can improve with lifestyle changes.

  • Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fiber from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables
  • Decrease saturated fat and added sugars
  • Get regular exercise at least 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week
  • Limit intake of alcohol
  • Stay hydrated
  • Get good quality sleep
  • Practice good stress management

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When to See a Medical Provider

If you have signs of diabetes or it has been awhile since you had a wellness check with a primary care provider, make an appointment. Alternatively, skip the waiting room and talk with a primary care provider in the K Health app.

If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes and you need to adjust your treatment plan, discuss new symptoms, or have other questions, a primary care provider can address your concerns and make sure you have the support you need.

Even with diabetes, you can have a good quality of life with medical, dietary, and lifestyle management. Many people can even reverse their diabetes symptoms entirely.

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can have a primary care doctor online?

Check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes through K Health. 

K Health’s AI-powered app is based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently asked questions

What causes diabetes in a man?
Men and women both can develop type 2 diabetes from common risk factors: overweight or obesity, lack of physical activity, tobacco use, and diets that are too high in added sugars and saturated fats.
How does diabetes affect a man?
Men can experience sexual and urological changes because of diabetes, including erectile dysfunction, retrograde ejaculation, low testosterone, decreased libido, and more.
What are the signs and symptoms of diabetes in men?
Signs of diabetes in men can include fatigue, increased urination, blurry vision, erectile dysfunction, increased thirst, and more.
How do I know if I've got diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes does not always cause immediate symptoms. Sometimes it is diagnosed after a routine blood test. A healthcare provider makes a diagnosis of diabetes when fasting blood sugar levels are 126 mg/dl or higher.

K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Jennifer Nadel, MD

Dr. Jennifer Nadel is a board certified emergency medicine physician and received her medical degree from the George Washington University School of Medicine. She has worked in varied practice environments, including academic urban level-one trauma centers, community hospital emergency departments, skilled nursing facilities, telemedicine, EMS medical control, and flight medicine.

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