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You notice dark patches on your skin
Your skin is a window into the health of your insides—check out all the conditions your skin can reveal. Diabetes is no exception. The back of your neck, groin, or underarms may look “dirty,” but the dark, velvety patches in these areas are actually a symptom of insulin resistance. It’s called acanthosis nigricans (AN). “The hormones involved in insulin resistance are also thought to contribute to the skin condition,” says Margaret Eckert-Norton, RN, PhD, CDE, chair of the Endocrine Society‘s Advocacy and Public Outreach Core Committee and associate professor at St. Joseph’s College in New York City. “It’s something that tends to happen gradually over the years,” she adds. Treatment for AN involves addressing the underlying cause—in this case, regaining control over blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes and you’re looking to reverse, check out this step-by-step plan.
The tip of your penis is red and swollen
There are many warning signs that you could be developing type 2 diabetes, including erectile dysfunction. When you have uncontrolled blood sugar, however, you’re at risk for a condition called balanitis. (Blood sugar in your urine provides an ideal environment for bacteria and yeast to grow.) Symptoms include swelling of the foreskin and tip of the penis, and it may be painful or you could experience a discharge. See your doctor, who will instruct you on the best way to keep the area clean and may recommend treatment with an anti-fungal or antibiotic cream (depending on the source of the problem).
Shaving nicks don’t heal quickly
While shaving your face you get a tiny cut that seems to linger forever. “When your sugars are on their way up, it may take longer for a cut to heal,” explains Eckert-Norton. You may also notice more shaving bumps and white heads in your hair follicles in your beard. The sebaceous oil glands in your face are also vulnerable to low-grade infections that you’re at risk for when you have type 2 diabetes, she says. Check out these smart and safe hygiene habits all men should follow.
Your hands and feet are numb and tingly
A more advanced complication of type 2 diabetes is nerve damage, a condition called peripheral diabetic neuropathy. You may feel tingling or pins and needles in your feet, pain or numbness and weakness, according to the American Diabetes Association. Eckert-Norton says that it presents in a “stocking, glove” pattern. “Where your socks go on, peripheral neuropathy happens first, and it eventually gets to your fingertips later on,” she says. Keeping blood glucose levels on target is key to lessening pain and numbness.
You’re so thirsty
Thirst is common with type 2 diabetes—in fact, it can be a sign of at least eight medical problems. You may notice that no amount of water can quench your thirst. That’s due to rising blood sugar levels, which forces your kidneys to get hard at work trying to filter out the excess sugar by ramping up urine production, says Eckert-Norton. You’ll pee more, which can potentially lead to dehydration, and you’ll want to drink more, too. If you notice that you’re running to the bathroom all day or are excessively thirsty (or dealing with a dry mouth), talk to your doctor about your glucose levels.
You’re seeing “floaters”
Though uncontrolled diabetes can damage eyes, it’s usually not until diabetes is more advanced that you start experiencing symptoms. Over time, high blood sugar damages blood vessels in the retina, causing them to bleed and leading to diabetic retinopathy, according to the National Eye Institute. You may notice black floating spots dotting your field of vision, and you may also have blurred vision. If you notice these type 2 diabetes symptoms in men, see a doctor for a dilated eye exam. If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you will need an eye exam at least once a year to ensure eyes stay healthy.
Your appetite is out of control
If you inexplicably have an enormous appetite, it may be a symptom of type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance means it’s harder for the body to shuttle glucose into cells where it produces energy. As a response, your body also produces more insulin, and that ramps up your appetite and triggers cravings. This is also how weight gain happens, Eckert-Norton explains. She adds that some patients will keep candy bars in their desks to pull out when they feel like they have low blood sugar. The problem is, it’s easy to overcompensate by eating too much—and the wrong types of foods (see: candy bar). Along with seeing your doctor, there are several strategies you can try to keep hunger at bay.
Your mood is low
Among the problems triggered by poor blood sugar, mood disorders are notorious. In a 2012 study in Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome, men with type 2 diabetes were more likely to have a depressed mood compared to healthy men. Blood sugar balance is important for maintaining a pleasant mood; when it dips, low blood sugar can contribute to irritability.
Your gums are bleeding
You’ve heard that one reason to stay on top of your oral health is because gum problems can put you at risk for chronic diseases like heart disease. Your teeth can reveal a lot of issues with your body, and one of those issues is diabetes. Gum disease can be one of the diabetes symptoms in men. People with diabetes are three times more likely to develop periodontitis (an infection that damages gums and can lead to tooth loss) compared to those who don’t have the disease. Red, swollen, bleeding gums are a few signs of the condition. It’s important to see a dentist and get this under control, since the infection also works the other way, and can increase blood sugar levels.
When you’re thinking about possible diabetes symptoms in men, balance issues may not come to mind. They should be—in fact, there are at least eight medical reasons you might feel dizzy. Inner ear disorders, which can show up as dizziness and balance problems, are 70 percent higher in people with type 2 diabetes compared to those without, according to a 2009 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Diabetes damages small blood vessels, which may, in turn, affect the blood flow to the inner ear structures. The lesson: Even seemingly unrelated problems can be a clue that your blood sugar levels are on the rise.