Magazine article The Saturday Evening Post

What Men Need to Know: A New Campaign Addresses Often-Overlooked Issues Affecting Men with Diabetes

Magazine article The Saturday Evening Post

What Men Need to Know: A New Campaign Addresses Often-Overlooked Issues Affecting Men with Diabetes

Article excerpt

Dealing with the day-to-day aspects of diabetes--blood glucose, nutrition, and lifestyle management--is a formidable challenge for all people with the disease.

However, American men living with diabetes also grapple with unique physical, emotional, and sexual health issues, according to recent survey findings from the American Diabetes Association.

In an online survey of 1,000 men with Type II diabetes and their spouses, researchers found that many men with diabetes are aware that they are at ah increased risk for complications such as heart attack, stroke, and blindness, but not aware of the increased risk for other conditions affecting emotional and sexual health. In fact, the survey showed that more than one-third admitted to experiencing symptoms associated with low testosterone levels-- depression, erectile dysfunction, and fatigue. The survey also revealed that men are reluctant, for many reasons, to discuss disease-related complications with a doctor, further diminishing their ability to take a proactive approach to managing their disease.

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"These survey results reinforce that there are some health issues associated with diabetes that men are currently aware of, like the importance of managing blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol," says Richard M. Bergenstal, M.D., American Diabetes Association Vice President, Medicine & Science. "But these same men were not aware that diabetes can also negatively affect several emotional and sexual health issues such as erectile dysfunction and low testosterone."

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Responding to this need, the ADA recently launched an awareness campaign (diabetes.org/menshealth) to help men and their families better manage the disease. To learn more about the survey and new campaign, the Post spoke with Dr. Bergenstal.

SEP: Why launch a campaign specific to men's health?

Dr. Bergenstal: Twenty-four million people are living with diabetes--half of them are men. Numerous awareness programs have focused on women's health--largely because they make most of the health decisions in families. Additionally, men typically don't dwell on personal health issues unless some crisis emerges.

Successfully managing diabetes requires prevention and planning ahead. In our survey of 1,000 men and their spouses, we discovered that men didn't understand many aspects of the disease, including how diabetes can affect sexual health, emotional states, and relationships. Survey results also revealed that many men feel uncomfortable bringing up these sensitive issues with their doctors.

The new campaign addresses sexual health and function as well as emotional health, including the issue of depression.

SEP: Certainly, sexual intimacy is an important part of life and relationships. Were men in the survey aware that diabetes could significantly affect their sex lives?

Dr. Bergenstal: No. But, in fact, impotency or erectile dysfunction (ED) is two to four times as common in men with diabetes. While there are good treatments for ED, men don't really want to discuss the issue with their doctors perhaps due to embarrassment. And doctors are busy monitoring for other complications associated with diabetes--problems with eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart disease. As a result, health care providers may never get around to asking if men are experiencing other issues.

SEP: Many men tend to associate erectile dysfunction with getting older. How does diabetes affect a male's sexual health?

Dr. Bergenstal: First, ED is not a normal part of getting older, and it doesn't happen to all men with diabetes. However, there are two factors that one must consider. One is as a complication of diabetes. An erection results when there is good blood flow to the penis, provided that the nerves are working properly. Diabetes affects blood flow and nerves. Over time, both can become damaged, leading to ED. …

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