Diabetes is a health condition characterized by the inability to produce adequate amounts of insulin, or the body’s inability to properly use insulin. This hormone controls blood glucose levels; when those levels are elevated, a host of health problems result. Men with diabetes may be particularly concerned about how the condition may affect their penis health and sex lives, and for good reason. There are a number of penile problems that diabetics are particularly susceptible to; knowing what they are and how they are treated can help men with diabetes get a better handle on their health.
Results of research vary in terms of how many men with diabetes suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED), but the range is 20% to 75%. Generally, men with diabetes are considered to be two to three times more likely to experience this problem than non-diabetic men, and at a younger age, too. In fact, experiencing performance problems younger than the age of 45 is considered an early warning sign of diabetes.
Diabetes can cause ED in a couple ways. First, chronically high glucose levels can cause nerve damage. Since erections occur partly due to nerve signaling, men with diabetes may not be able to achieve erections. Second, diabetes can affect the way blood flows through the body. Impeded circulation in the penis can lead to ED, since, along with healthy nerve supply, the penis requires a rush of blood into its chambers in order to harden.
Treating ED caused by either or both of those issues may involve medications, penis pumps, urethral suppositories and/or injections. Perhaps most important is managing the underlying condition. Most diabetics suffer from type 2 diabetes, a diet-related disease that can be largely prevented and possibly even treated by eating well and exercising regularly. Men should also eliminate bad habits that exacerbate nerve and circulatory issues, such as smoking and heavy drinking.
An excess of glucose in the blood creates a ripe environment for the overgrowth of Candida yeast. Men with diabetes are prone to recurrent yeast infections, marked by a red penile rash and burning and/or itching of the urethra. Antifungal creams help rid infections, but only managing the underlying condition will keep them away for good.
The expulsion of semen through the urethra is conducted partly by sphincter muscles. In people with diabetes, nerve damage may cause the sphincter muscles to function abnormally; when this occurs, semen goes into the bladder rather than out the tip of the penis. This is called retrograde ejaculation. In the bladder, seed mixes with urine and is expelled when a man urinates.
The primary sign of retrograde ejaculation that a man will notice is a reduction in the amount of semen when he ejaculates. A medical professional can also test for semen in a urine sample to confirm the condition. While generally harmless, retrograde ejaculation poses an obstacle for couples who are trying to get pregnant. There are medications that strengthen the sphincter muscles that control normal emission; also, a doctor can obtain semen from a man’s urine and use it to artificially inseminate a woman.