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6 diabetes complications men need to know about

A smiling man stands with his arms crossed.

June 10, 2024—Nearly 20 million men in the U.S. have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They're more likely to develop the condition at a lower weight than women. And they may be at increased risk for certain complications.

What you don't know can hurt you

According to CDC, men are less likely to go to the doctor than women. That's a problem, because when it comes to diabetes, what you don't know can hurt your health. Unmanaged or undiagnosed diabetes can lead to more health issues.

And according to CDC and a recent study in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health (JECH), men may be at increased risk for diabetes-related health problems, including:

Heart disease. Diabetes raises the risk of heart disease in men and women. But the risk is higher in men. According to the JECH study, men with diabetes are 1.5 times more likely to develop heart disease than women with the condition.

One reason may be that men tend to store more fat in their bellies than women, which is a risk factor for heart disease.

Kidney disease. Having diabetes itself is a risk factor for kidney disease. And, according to the JECH study, that risk is 1.6 times higher in men. Kidney disease caused by diabetes often doesn't have any symptoms, making it especially important to get screened for it if you have diabetes.

Nerve damage. Up to half of people with diabetes have a type of nerve damage called peripheral neuropathy. That means you might feel burning, numbness or tingling in your hands, feet, arms or legs. You can even lose feeling completely in parts of your body, like your feet.

And since you can't feel injuries, peripheral neuropathy can lead to problems with nonhealing wounds—which may even lead to amputation in extreme circumstances. Though the risk overall is low, the JECH study found that men with diabetes have a 50% higher chance for amputation than do women.

Urinary issues. Nerve damage from diabetes can also cause urinary problems, including:

  • Overactive bladder.
  • Incontinence.
  • Urinary retention (when the bladder doesn't empty all the way).
  • Urinary tract infections.
  • Retrograde ejaculation (when semen is released into the bladder).

Managing your diabetes is an important part of preventing and controlling these bladder issues. And knowing when to ask for help can get you on the road to recovery quicker.

Sexual issues. Men with diabetes are 3 times more likely to have erectile dysfunction, according to CDC. That's because nerve and blood vessel damage can make it difficult to maintain an erection. Low testosterone can also be an issue.

Vision loss. Diabetes is the top cause of new blindness among adults ages 16 to 64, according to CDC. If you have diabetes, it's important to get a dilated eye exam at least once a year—this helps detect diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to vision loss and often doesn't have symptoms in the early stages.

Men, especially, should take heed: They're at a higher risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, according to CDC. And your risk increases the longer you have diabetes.

Get checked

If you have diabetes, routine care is an important part of managing the disease so you don't develop further complications. See what kinds of screenings you might need and when. And talk to your doctor if you have any questions about them.


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