How Diabetes Is Different for Men


Gina Garippo

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middle age man overweight

If you’re a man with type 2 diabetes, you aren’t alone—nearly 12% of all men ages 20 and older have the disease. Being diagnosed with diabetes can be difficult, but you can keep the disease under control by learning as much as possible and taking charge of your health.

Team Up with Your Doctor

Your doctor is your partner in achieving good health. That’s why it’s important to keep appointments and follow your doctor’s advice. If you’re having problems, speak up. If you decide you don't like the care your doctor provides, then find a better doctor.

Make Positive Changes

It can be hard to make the switch to a healthy lifestyle, but it’s never too late. Adopting healthy habits can help you control your diabetes and improve how you feel. Learning how to eat healthier foods, monitor your blood sugar levels, stop smoking, and begin exercising can make a real difference in your health. If you don’t know where to start, talk with your doctor about your options.

Understand and Prevent Complications

Everyone with diabetes is at risk for disease-related complications such as heart disease, kidney damage, and eye problems. But diabetes doesn’t always affect men and women the same. Below are a few complications that men should be aware of and take steps to guard against. 


Both men and women are at risk for diabetes-related amputation. But studies show that men are much more likely than women to undergo limb amputation. Experts believe that’s because there’s a greater risk of neuropathy in men—nerve damage that can cause numbness and tingling. Nerve damage prevents people with diabetes from feeling cuts or wounds, which can become infected and lead to amputation if not treated.

To prevent neuropathy, make sure to keep your blood sugar as close to normal levels as you can. Report any limb numbness, tingling, or weakness to your doctor. Also, protect your feet by wearing shoes and socks that fit well. Check your feet carefully each day for cuts, blisters, or other problems. If you suspect an issue, seek immediate treatment.

Erectile Dysfunction

Men with diabetes are two to three times more likely than nondiabetic men to experience erectile dysfunction (ED), a condition in which men have trouble getting or keeping an erection. ED often occurs when nerves and blood vessels in the penis become damaged. It can also develop as a result of taking certain medications.

Thankfully, there are many things you can do to treat ED. In addition to reviewing your medications with your doctor, take steps to live a healthy lifestyle. The same healthy habits that can help you manage diabetes, such as exercising regularly, not smoking, and reaching a healthy weight, can also reduce your risk for ED. In addition, your doctor may prescribe medications or devices that can help you overcome ED and maintain an active sex life.

Low Testosterone

If you have type 2 diabetes, you are twice as likely as a nondiabetic man to have low testosterone levels. Symptoms of low testosterone can include a decreased interest in sex, reduced muscle mass, fatigue, and weakness. It’s also linked to ED.

It’s important to be aware of the risk of developing low testosterone, and talk with your doctor if you suspect a problem. Low testosterone can be diagnosed with a simple blood test and can be easily treated. Your doctor may prescribe gels, patches, or injections that can raise testosterone to normal levels. A recent study showed that taking Viagra raised testosterone levels, yet adding testosterone gel treatment did not provide any additional benefit for ED.

Get Support

There are many people with diabetes who successfully control their condition and keep complications at bay. To learn from them and get motivated to tackle your own health, consider joining a support group or online chat forum.

Key Takeaways

  • Diabetes doesn’t always affect men and women the same way.

  • Men are much more likely to undergo limb amputation. Be sure to report any limb numbness, tingling, or weakness to your doctor.

  • Men with diabetes are two to three times more likely than nondiabetic men to experience erectile dysfunction. In addition to medication, healthy lifestyle habits can reduce the risk for ED.

  • Men with type 2 diabetes are twice as likely as nondiabetic men to have low testosterone levels, which are easily treated.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jun 25, 2017

© 2018 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

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Medical References

  1. Spitzer M, et al. Effect of testosterone replacement on response to sildenafil citrate in men with erectile dysfunction: A parallel, randomized trial. Ann Intern Med. 2102;20:157:681
  2. Examining differences in diabetic foot amputation. American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.
  3. Diabetic Neuropathies: The Nerve Damage of Diabetes. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
  4. Sexual Implications of Emotional Health. American Diabetes Association.
  5.  Erectile Dysfunction. American Diabetes Association.
  6. Low Testosterone. American Diabetes Association.
  7. Neuropathy (Nerve Damage). American Diabetes Association.
  8. Steps to Prevent or Delay Nerve Damage. American Diabetes Association.

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