Posts Tagged ‘infections’

Diabetes And Urological Health

August 12, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD  8/12/17

Your taste buds may crave sugar (glucose), but the rest of your body sure doesn’t!

A common presenting symptom of undiagnosed diabetes is frequent urination because of the urine-producing effect of glucose in the urine. People with such urinary frequency will often consult a urologist (urinary tract specialist) erroneously, thinking that the problem is kidney, bladder or prostate in origin, when in actuality it is the sugar in the urine that is the source of the problem.

Because of this urinary frequency presentation of diabetes, urologists often have the opportunity to make the initial diagnosis and refer the patient for appropriate care. Similarly, many uncircumcised men who have foreskin problems–particularly when the foreskin becomes stuck down over the head of the penis and will not retract (phimosis)–have undiagnosed diabetes. A simple dipstick of urine in conjunction with the typical presenting symptoms of frequent daytime and nighttime urination and/or foreskin issues directs the proper diagnosis.

Diabetes has detrimental effects on all body systems, with the urinary and genital systems no exception. Today’s entry reviews the impact of diabetes on urological health. Many urological problems occur as a result of diabetes, including urinary infections, kidney and bladder conditions, foreskin issues and sexual problems.  Additionally, diabetes increases the risk of kidney stones. Although many of the same urinary issues that are present in diabetics commonly also occur with the aging process (in the absence of diabetes), the presence of diabetes hastens their onset and severity.  Diabetes can have catastrophic consequences including the following: heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure requiring dialysis and vascular disease resulting in amputations.

Wickipedia public domain copy

Thank you, Wikipedia, for the above public domain image

Diabetes 101

Diabetes is a disease in which blood glucose levels are elevated. Glucose is the body’s main fuel source, derived from the diet.  Insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas, is responsible for moving glucose from the blood into the body’s cells so that life processes can be fueled. In diabetes, either there is no insulin, or alternatively, plenty of insulin, but the body cannot use it properly. Without functioning insulin, the glucose stays in the blood and not the cells that need it, resulting in potential harm to many organs.

Two distinct types of diabetes exist. Type 1 is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system destroys insulin-producing cells, severely limiting or completely stopping all insulin production.  It is often inherited and is responsible for about 5% of diabetes. It is managed by insulin injections or an insulin pump.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by overeating and sedentary living and is responsible for 95% of diabetes. This form of diabetes is caused by insulin resistance, a condition in which the body cannot process insulin and is resistant to its actions. Anybody with excessive abdominal fat is on the pathway from insulin resistance towards diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes is a classic example of an avoidable and “elective” chronic disease that occurs because of an unhealthy lifestyle.

Sad, but true: Chances are that if you have a big abdomen (“visceral” obesity marked by internal fat) you are pre-diabetic. This leaves you with two pathways: the active pathway – cleaning up your diet, losing weight and getting serious about exercise, in which this potential problem can be nipped in the bud. However, if you take the passive pathway, you’ll likely end up with full-blown diabetes.

Common presenting symptoms of diabetes are frequent urination, thirst, extreme hunger, weight loss, fatigue and irritability, recurrent infections, blurry vision, cuts that are slow to heal, and tingling or numbness in the hands or feet.

Complications of diabetes occur because of chronic elevated blood glucose and consequent damage to blood vessels and nerves.  Diabetes accelerates atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty deposits occur within the walls of arteries, compromising blood flow and the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to tissues. Diabetic “small blood vessel” disease can lead to retinopathy (visual problems leading to blindness), nephropathy (kidney damage leading to dialysis), and neuropathy (nerve damage causing loss of sensation).  Diabetic “large vessel disease” can cause coronary artery disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.  Diabetes increases the risk of infections because of poor blood flow and impaired function of infection-fighting white blood cells.

Diabetes and the bladder

Many diabetics have urological problems on the basis of the neuropathy that affects the bladder.  These issues include impaired sensation in which the bladder becomes “numb” and the patient gets no signal to urinate as well as impaired bladder contractility in which the bladder muscle does not function properly, causing inability to empty the bladder completely.  Other diabetics develop involuntary bladder contractions (overactive bladder), causing urinary urgency, frequency and incontinence.

Diabetes and the kidneys

Diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure, accounting for almost half of all new cases. Even with diabetic control, the disease can lead to chronic kidney disease, kidney failure and the need for dialysis or kidney transplantation.

Diabetes and urinary/genital Infections

Diabetics have more frequent urinary tract infections than the general population because of factors including improper functioning of the infection-fighting white blood cells, glucose in the urine (a delightful treat for bacteria) and compromised blood flow. Diabetics have a greater risk of asymptomatic bacteriuria and pyuria (the presence of white cells and bacteria in the urine without infection), cystitis (bladder infections), and pyelonephritis (kidney infections).  Impaired bladder emptying further complicates the potential for infections.  Diabetics have more serious complications of pyelonephritis including kidney abscess, emphysematous pyelonephritis (infection with gas-forming bacteria), and urosepsis (a very serious systemic infection originating in the urinary tract requiring hospitalization and intravenous antibiotics).  Fournier’s gangrene (necrotizing fasciitis) is a soft tissue infection of the male genitals that often requires emergency surgery (that can be disfiguring) and has a very high mortality rate.  Over 90% of patients with Fournier’s gangrene are diabetic. Diabetic patients also have an increased prevalence of infections with surgical procedures, particularly those involving prosthetic implants, including penile implants, artificial urinary sphincters, and mesh implants for pelvic organ prolapse.

Diabetes and the foreskin

Balanoposthitis is medical speak for inflammation of the head of the penis and foreskin. As mentioned previously, a tight foreskin that cannot be pulled back to expose the head of the penis (phimosis) can be the first clinical sign of diabetes in uncircumcised men. At least 25% of men with this problem have underlying diabetes.  It is common for these men to have fungal infections under the foreskin because of the risk factors of a warm, moist, dark environment in conjunction with the presence of glucose in the urine. The good news is that phimosis and fungal infections often respond nicely to diabetic control.

Who Knew? I learned from a patient of mine that this issue is referred to in slang as “sugar dick.”

Diabetes and sexual function

Sexual functioning is based upon good blood flow and an intact nerve supply to the genitals and pelvis.  Diabetics often develop sexual problems (in fact, diabetes is the most common cause of erectile dysfunction) because of the combination of neuropathy and blood vessel disease.  Men commonly have a reduced sex drive and have difficulty achieving and maintaining erections.  Diabetes increases the risk of erectile dysfunction threefold.  Diabetes has clearly been linked with testosterone deficiency, which can negatively impact sex drive and sexual function.  Because of the neuropathy, many diabetic males have retrograde ejaculation, a situation in which semen goes backwards into the bladder and not out the urethra.  Female diabetics are not spared from sexual problems and commonly have reduced desire, decreased arousal and sexual response, vaginal lubrication issues and painful sexual intercourse.

Diabetic management

With Type 2 diabetes it is vital to modify lifestyle, including dietary changes that avoid diabetic-promoting foods and replacement with healthier foods in order to have appropriate sugar control to help prevent diabetic complications. Diabetics should refrain from high glycemic index foods (those that are rapidly absorbed) including sugars and refined white carbohydrates and instead should consume high-fiber vegetables, fresh fruits, and whole-grain products.  Regular exercise is equally as important as healthy eating, and the combination of healthy eating, physical activity, and weight loss can often adequately address Type 2 diabetes.

When lifestyle measures cannot be successfully implemented or do not achieve complete resolution, there are different classes of medications that can be used to manage the diabetes. However, lifestyle modification should always be the initial approach, since lifestyle (in large part) caused the problem and is capable of improving/reversing it.  At times, when diet, exercise and drugs are unable to control the diabetes, bariatric (weight loss) surgery may be needed to control and even potentially eliminate the diabetes.

Bottom Line:  Diabetes is a serious chronic illness with potentially devastating complications. Type 1 diabetes is relatively rare and unavoidable, but is manageable with insulin replacement. Type 2 diabetes is epidemic and its prevalence has increased dramatically coincident with the expanding American waistline. It can be improved/reversed through integration of healthy eating habits, weight management, and exercise. Lifestyle modifications can be amazingly restorative to general, urological and sexual health and overall wellbeing. After all, our greatest wealth is health.

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:

Dr. Andrew Siegel is a practicing physician and urological surgeon board-certified in urology as well as in female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery.  Dr. Siegel serves as Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Rutgers-New Jersey Medical School and is a Castle Connolly Top Doctor New York Metro Area, Inside Jersey Top Doctor and Inside Jersey Top Doctor for Women’s Health. His mission is to “bridge the gap” between the public and the medical community that is in such dire need of bridging.

Author of MALE PELVIC FITNESS: Optimizing Sexual & Urinary Health

Author of THE KEGEL FIX: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health 

Amazon page for Dr. Siegel’s books




Antibiotics: Double-Edged Swords

April 9, 2016

Andrew Siegel MD  4/9/16

…A break from my typical “pelvic health” entries to briefly review these miraculous medications that are of both great benefit and detriment to humans and humankind. Beginning next week, I segue to the topic of “female pelvic health.”


The 19th century –the “century of hygiene”–was marked by improved public health and sanitation, which saved more lives than any other cause.   The 20th century–the “century of medicine”– witnessed the development of antibiotics, vaccines, medications, chemotherapy, etc.  The 21st century could aptly be labeled the “century of resistance,” as overuse/misuse/abuse of antibiotics has resulted in the emergence of highly resistant “superbugs” that are one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. 

Ten Indisputable Facts Regarding Antibiotics

  1. Antibiotics are indispensable assets and essential weapons in the fight against bacterial pathogens, in many cases proving lifesaving.
  2. Antibiotics have dramatically improved human quality and quantity of life.
  3. Antibiotics arguably are the medication class that has been most abused, overused and/or used inappropriately (although pain medications are right up there as well).
  4. When prescribed for non-bacterial infections, e.g., the common cold and other viral upper respiratory infections, antibiotics not only provide absolutely no benefit, but also can be detrimental.
  5. Antibiotics can induce allergic reactions and many other side effects including tendon weakness and rupture associated with the use of Ciprofloxacin and other members of its class.
  6. Antibiotics destroy healthy bacteria along with pathogenic bacteria, causing adverse effects due to the change in the population of the bacterial ecosystem: yeast infections; infection/inflammation of the colon (colitis) caused by overgrowth of Clostridium difficile; and the selection of “superbugs” that are resistant to antibiotic treatment.
  7. Antibiotic overuse in farm animals–the number one consumer of antibiotics– has contributed in a major way to the surge in these “superbugs.”  Resistance is of particular concern in children because they have the highest demand for antibiotic use and fewer choices since some antibiotics cannot be safely used in children.
  8. On an annual basis 2,000,000 Americans acquire antibiotic-resistant infections;            23,000 die from them.
  9. 50% of outpatient antibiotic prescriptions in the USA are considered unnecessary.
  10. Antibiotics are often prescribed inappropriately because patients “demand” them and the “path of least resistance” is often for physicians to prescribe them.

Bottom Line:  Antibiotics are a powerful component of the medical armamentarium against disease, but are double-edged swords that must be used judiciously and appropriately.  (So the next time a patient with a cold asks me to prescribe a Z-Pak, you know what the answer will be!)

Wishing you the best of health,

2014-04-23 20:16:29

A new blog is posted every week. To receive the blogs in the in box of your email go to the following link and click on “email subscription”:

Author of The Kegel Fix: Recharging Female Pelvic, Sexual and Urinary Health– available on Amazon Kindle as of today:

Trailer for The Kegel Fix

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health: 

Co-creator of Private Gym and PelvicRx: comprehensive, interactive, FDA-registered follow-along male pelvic floor muscle training programs. Built upon the foundational work of Dr. Arnold Kegel, these programs empower men to increase pelvic floor muscle strength, tone, power, and endurance: or Amazon.  In the works is the female PelvicRx.

Pelvic Rx can be obtained at, an online store that is home to quality urology products for men and women.  Don’t forget to use code UROLOGY10 at checkout for 10% discount.