Diabetes is a growing public health concern around the world, and for men it can be a penis health concern as well. While it may seem counterintuitive that a disease characterized by its effect on blood sugar levels should impact the penis, this is indeed the case. Therefore, proper penis care involves taking steps to prevent diabetes or, when diabetes is present, managing this condition.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes refers to a condition in which the body has difficulty producing and/or using insulin, a hormone created by the pancreas. Insulin is very important because it helps to regulate how much sugar (called glucose) is in the blood. When blood sugar levels get too high, as is often the case with diabetes, there can be significant problems. Many complications – including heart disease and nerve damage – are associated with diabetes.
There are some diabetes complications which are specifically related to penis health. These include:
Men with diabetes are much more likely to encounter erectile issues than are non-diabetic men. They are also more likely to run into this embarrassing problem at a younger age than non-diabetic men.
How does diabetes impact erectile function? First, one of the complications associated with diabetes is nerve damage. When the nerves are impacted, a person experiences a loss of sensation or a “de-sensitization” of the area. In some cases, this can be extreme. Since the sensitivity level of the nerves in the penis determines erectile response, a diminution of sensitivity due to nerve damage can make attaining and maintaining an erectile state more difficult.
Second, blood flow also plays a crucial role in successful erections. When the penis gets the signals that start the arousal process, they open the gates so that blood can rush in and fill the organ. Diabetes can have a negative impact on blood flow, and that can lead to a softening of the erectile process.
Some men with diabetes also experience retrograde ejaculation, a condition in which nerve damage causes the bladder neck muscle to malfunction, resulting in semen being sent into the bladder rather than into the urethra. (The semen is then expelled when the man urinates.) Retrograde ejaculation is not dangerous, but it does have an impact on men attempting to father a child – and it can have a dampening psychological effect on men due to the reduced amount of semen that is expelled during an ejaculation.