Daily injections, long hospital admissions, sugar monitoring, gangrenous feet are among signs that make you recognise someone with diabetes. It is Men's Health Awareness Month and in this article, we will be exploring how the condition affects them.
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease which sets in as a result of inadequate levels of insulin in the blood. This deficiency can be acquired or inherited. A lack of insulin; the hormone that controls blood glucose levels; leads to increased amounts of blood glucose and damage to vital organs. About 150 million people worldwide are estimated to be living with this disease currently. Sadly, this number is on the rise. There are two types, and they are called Type 1 and Type 2.
Causes and Risk Factors
Type 1: In this type, the pancreas cannot produce insulin. An autoimmune condition, this is a type of diabetes in which the body?s defence system attacks beta cells which produce insulin. It is common in children and adolescents.
Type 2: The body fails to respond well to the insulin produced. Here, the cells cannot utilize blood glucose efficiently to produce energy. The blood glucose, therefore, becomes high and eventually causes these cells to become resistant to insulin. It is more common and thus accounts for a vast majority of cases. Type 2 diabetes is found mostly in adults and recently, adolescents.
These include high blood pressure, smoking, obesity and pre-diabetes. Prediabetes is a condition where blood glucose levels are higher than should be but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes to be made.
Diabetes tends to run in families, so the presence of a family member with diabetes increases the likelihood of another family member having diabetes.
Men have been found to be at higher risk of type 2 diabetes than women.
Other risk factors are high alcohol consumption, poor sleep, unhealthy diets high in sugars and low in beneficial nutrients, being physically inactive, a high cholesterol level, having more fat around the waist and abdomen. In addition, being of African descent puts people at higher risk of diabetes.
Type 1- excessive urination, thirst, weight loss and fatigue
Type 2- early symptoms are often absent and it is often undetected for years until complications set in. Other symptoms which are warning signs are frequent urination which is due to the urinary tract infection especially when the kidneys are affected. Others are irritability, skin infections, loss of sensation in hands and feet, fruity mouth odour and wounds that take longer than usual to heal.
Complications of diabetes affect the eyes, heart, kidney and nerves. There is also impaired healing of wounds that can lead to foot ulcers called Diabetes Mellitus Foot Syndrome (DMFS)
Men and Diabetes
Men are at higher risk than women. Diabetes makes a man more likely to have low testosterone levels. This, in turn, causes a lower sex drive, depression, reduced muscle mass and low levels of energy. Erectile dysfunction is another symptom. Diabetes makes this condition occur far earlier than it does in men who do not have diabetes.
Men with diabetes who can sustain an erection still contend with retrograde ejaculation which is when a reduced amount of semen is produced. In this case, it flows into the bladder instead of the urethra- its normal route out of the body.
The damage caused by diabetes to the body's blood vessels affects those supplying the bladder, urethra and penis. This accounts for the symptoms in the genitourinary system.
Diagnosis is made using blood glucose measurements. The presence of abnormal levels of glucose in the blood is suggestive of diabetes and may need to be confirmed by further testing. Examples of these tests include random blood glucose, fasting blood glucose, oral glucose tolerance and haemoglobin A1C.
A healthy diet and physical exercise can treat early stages and prevent prediabetes from progressing. Insulin injections have increased survival rates substantially and are commenced by a doctor. The individual is trained on how to inject this medication which is needed at regular intervals in a day. Oral blood glucose lowering medications can also be prescribed by a doctor.
Complicated cases are managed by a team of specialists like endocrinologists, dieticians, neurologists and surgeons due to the different organ systems involved.
As shown above, diabetes is a debilitating disease that causes pain and drastically limits an individual's quality of life. For this reason, it is imperative to gear efforts towards prevention and early detection. A healthy diet and exercise are two of the cardinal aspects of achieving this. Regular screening via blood glucose tests and medical check-ups help catch cases early. In all detected cases, early treatment should be carried out. Compliance with such treatment must be adhered to in order to prevent complications.