Posts Tagged ‘urinary frequency’

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”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

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

 

 

Percutaneous Tibial Nerve Stimulation (PTNS) For Overactive Bladder (OAB)

July 29, 2017

Andrew Siegel MD   7/29/17

ptns-v2@2x

PTNS therapy is a non-drug, non-surgical option to treat OAB symptoms including urinary urgency, frequency and urgency incontinence. PTNS consists of 12 weekly sessions in the office, followed by a maintenance regimen. During each 30-minute session, a thin needle electrode is placed into the ankle region and is connected to an external electrical stimulator. Up to 80% of patients improve with minimal, if any, side-effects.

OAB

Overactive bladder is a common and annoying condition present in both females and males marked by episodes of urinary urgency, frequency and, at times, incontinence. A variety of methods can be used to improve symptoms and quality of life, including the following: behavioral modifications, bladder retraining, pelvic floor muscle training, bladder relaxant medications and Botox injections.  Although medications are commonly used for OAB, the problem is that side effects and expense often limit their continued usage.

Neuromodulation

An effective alternative is neuromodulation, the least invasive technique of which is known as PTNS.  PTNS uses a thin, acupuncture-style needle placed in the ankle that is attached to a hand-held device that generates electrical stimulation.  This is a significantly less invasive means of neuromodulation than is Interstim, which requires implantable wire electrodes to be placed in the spine and continuous electrical stimulation with an implantable battery-powered pulse generator. In both instances, the sacral plexus—responsible for regulating bladder and pelvic floor function—is “modulated” by the electrical stimulation, causing a beneficial effect with improvement of OAB symptoms. With PTNS, the electrical stimulation travels up the tibial nerve to the sacral plexus, whereas with Interstim, the sacral plexus is directly stimulated by electrodes.

Nuts and Bolts of PTNS

PTNS involves once weekly visits to the office for 12 weeks, 30 minutes per session.  It can be performed on both female and male patients.

At each session, the patient is seated comfortably with the treatment leg elevated and supported.  A fine caliber needle electrode—similar to an acupuncture needle—is inserted into the inner ankle in the vicinity of the tibial nerve.  A grounding surface electrode is placed as well.  An adjustable electrical pulse is applied to the needle electrode via an external pulse generator. Activation of the tibial nerve is confirmed with a sensory (mild sensation in ankle or sole) and/or a motor (toe flex/fan or foot extension) response. Thereafter, the power of electrical stimulation is adjusted to an appropriate level and the 30-minute session begins. The patient can read, listen to music, nap, meditate, etc.

Clinical Response

Improvement in OAB symptoms often occurs by session 6, sometimes sooner. Patients who respond well to the 12-week protocol may require occasional maintenance treatments.  70-80% of patients will achieve long-term improvement in OAB symptoms. PTNS incurs minimal risks with the most common side effects being mild pain and skin irritation where the needle electrode is placed.

Insurance

PTNS is covered by most insurances, including Medicare.  PTNS cannot be used in patients with pacemakers or implantable defibrillators, those prone to excessive bleeding, those with nerve damage or women who are pregnant or planning to get pregnant during the treatment period.

YouTube on PTNS

“My PTNS” educational program

My nurse practitioner and I will be giving a seminar (free of charge) on PTNS on 7PM on Thursday, September 14, 2017 at the Marriott Hotel, 138 New Pehle Avenue, Saddle Brook, NJ.  Light refreshments will be served.  Space is limited, so if interested, please call 201-487-8866 to reserve a spot.

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”:  www.HealthDoc13.WordPress.com

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

 

 

Getting Up At Night Gets Me Down: Nighttime Urinating

May 24, 2014

Blog #155

Getting up once to relieve your bladder during sleep hours is usually not particularly troublesome. However, when it happens two or more times, it can negatively impact one’s quality of life because of sleep disruption, daytime fatigue, an increased risk of fatigue-related accidents and an increased risk of fall-related nighttime injuries. Fatigue has a negative effect on just about everything, even influencing us to mindlessly eat.

Nocturia is the medical term for the need to awaken from sleep to urinate. One’s natural response is to think urinary bladder problem and seek a consultation with a urologist, the type of doctor who specializes in the urinary system. Although nocturia manifests itself via the bladder and much of the time is a urological issue, it is often not a bladderproblem. Rather, the kidneys are frequently culprits in contributing to the condition.

The kidneys are remarkable organs that can multitask like no other. They not only filter blood to remove waste products, but are also responsible for other vital body functions: They are in charge of maintaining the proper fluid volume within our blood stream. They regulate the levels of our electrolytes including sodium, potassium, chloride, etc. They keep our blood pH (indicator of acidity) at a precise level to maintain optimal function. They are key players in the regulation of blood pressure. Furthermore—and unbeknownst to many—they are responsible for the production of several important hormones: calcitrol (calcium regulation), erythropoietin (red blood cell production), and renin (blood pressure regulation). The kidneys regulate our blood volume by concentrating or diluting our urine depending on our state of hydration. When we are over-hydrated, the kidneys dilute the urine to rid our bodies of excess fluid, resulting in virtually clear urine. When we are dehydrated, the kidneys concentrate urine to preserve our fluid volume, resulting in very concentrated urine that can look as dark as apple cider.

Nocturia correlates with aging and the associated decline in kidney function and decreased ability to concentrate urine. Although having an enlarged prostate may certainly contribute to nocturia, it is obviously much more complicated than this since women do not have prostates and nocturia is equally prevalent in men and women. As simple as getting up at night to urinate sounds, it is actually a complex condition often based upon multiple factors that require careful evaluation in order to sort out and treat appropriately. When a urology consultation is sought, our goal is to distinguish between urological and non-urological causes for nighttime urinating. It often comes down to one of three factors: nighttime urine production by the kidneys; capacity of the urinary bladder; and sleep status. In the elderly population, excessive nighttime urine production is a factor almost 90% of the time.

Nocturia can ultimately be classified into one or more of 5 categories: global polyuria (making too much urine, day and night); nocturnal polyuria (making too much urine at night); reduced bladder capacity; sleep disorders; and circadian clock disorders (problems with our bio-rhythms). Global polyuria can result from excessive fluid intake from overenthusiastic drinking or from dehydration from poorly controlled diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes). The pituitary gland within our brain manufactures an important hormone responsible for water regulation. This hormone is ADH—anti-diuretic hormone—and it works by giving the message to the kidneys to concentrate urine. Diabetes insipidus is a disease of either kidney origin—in which the kidneys do not respond to ADH—or pituitary origin—in which there is deficient secretion of ADH. In either case, lots of urine will be made, resulting in frequent urination, both daytime and nighttime. Medications including diuretics, SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), calcium blockers, tetracycline and lithium may induce global polyuria.

Nocturnal polyuria may be on the basis of excessive fluid intake, especially diuretic beverages including caffeine and alcohol, a nocturnal defect in the secretion of ADH, and unresponsiveness of the kidneys to the action of ADH. Congestive heart failure, sleep apnea and kidney insufficiency may also play a role. Certain conditions result in accumulation of fluids in tissues of the body such as the legs (peripheral edema); when lying down to sleep, the fluid is no longer under the same pressures as determined by gravity, and returns to the intravascular (within the blood vessels) compartment. It is then subject to being released from the kidneys as urine. Such conditions include heart, kidney and liver impairment, nephrotic syndrome, malnutrition and venous stasis. Circadian clock disorders cause reduced ADH secretion or activity, resulting in dilute urine that causes nocturia.

Nocturia may also be caused by primary sleep disorders including insomnia, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy, and arousal disorders (sleepwalking, nightmares, etc.)

There are numerous urological causes of reduced bladder capacity. Any abnormal process that occurs within the bladder can irritate its delicate lining, causing a reduced capacity: bladder infections, bladder stones, bladder cancer, bacterial cystitits, radiation cystitis, and interstitial cystitis. An overactive bladder—a bladder that “squeezes without its owner’s permission”—can cause nocturia. Some people have small bladder capacities on the basis of scarring, radiation, or other forms of damage. Prostate enlargement commonly gives rise to nocturia, as can many neurological diseases that often have profound effects on bladder function. Incomplete bladder emptying can give rise to frequent urination since the bladder is already starting out on a bias of being partially filled. This problem can occur with prostate enlargement, scar tissue in the urethra, neurologic issues, and bladder prolapse.

The principal diagnostic tool for nocturia is the frequency-volume chart (FVC), a simple test that can effectively guide diagnosis and treatment. This is a 24-hour record of the time of urination and volume of urination, requiring a clock, pencil, paper and measuring cup. Typical bladder capacity is 10–12 ounces with 4–6 urinations per day. Reduced bladder capacity is a condition in which frequent urination occurs with low bladder capacities, for example, 3–4 ounces per void. Global polyuria is a condition in which bladder volumes are full and appropriate and the frequency occurs both daytime and nighttime. Nocturnal polyuria is nocturnal urinary frequency with full and appropriate volumes, with daytime voiding patterns being normal.

Lifestyle modifications to improve nocturia include the following: preemptive voiding before bedtime, intentional nocturnal and late afternoon dehydration, salt restriction, dietary restriction of caffeine and alcohol, adjustment of medication timing, use of compression stockings with afternoon and evening leg elevation, and use of sleep medications as necessary.

Urological issues may need to be managed with medications that relax or shrink the prostate when the issue is prostate obstruction, and bladder relaxants for overactive bladder. For nocturnal polyuria, synthetic ADH (an orally disintegrating sublingual tablet) in dosages of 50-100 micrograms for men and 25 micrograms for women can be highly effective.

Bottom Line: Nocturia should be investigated to determine its cause, which may often in fact be related to conditions other than urinary tract issues. Nighttime urination is not only bothersome, but may also pose real health risks. Chronically disturbed sleep can lead to a host of collateral wellness issues.

Andrew Siegel, MD

Author of Male Pelvic Fitness: Optimizing Sexual and Urinary Health; available in e-book (Kindle, iBooks, Nook) and coming soon in paperback.

www.MalePelvicFitness.com

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”:

www.healthdoc13.wordpress.com

Diabetes and the Urologist

April 21, 2012

Andrew Siegel, M.D.   Blog #55

“Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”

Hippocrates

Many diseases and disabilities are related to the quantity and quality of the foods we eat and the amount of exercise we get or don’t get.  The most prevalent form of diabetes, Type 2, is a classic example of an avoidable disease that occurs because of lifestyle indiscretions. Type 2 diabetes is now occurring in epidemic proportions and, sadly, can have catastrophic consequences including: heart disease, strokes, blindness, kidney failure requiring dialysis and vascular disease resulting in amputations.  This disease has the capability of dramatically decreasing the quantity and quality of our lives.

There are over 25 million diabetics in the USA, and the incidence is rapidly spiraling upwards, particularly because of poor dietary choices and insufficient exercise.  Diabetes causes elevated blood glucose (i.e., sugar) and occurs on the basis of a defect in the body’s ability to produce the pancreatic hormone insulin or use the insulin (insulin resistance). The function of insulin is to regulate glucose and move it  into our cells so that it can be used for energy and metabolism.  When insulin is unavailable or the body has developed resistance to its effect, blood glucose levels rise uncontrollably with potential dire health complications.

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.  However, the most common symptom may unfortunately be…no symptom at all.

There are two distinct types of diabetes.  These were formally called juvenile diabetes and adult-onset diabetes, but because of the increasing incidence of obesity in children (such that children are now developing adult-onset diabetes), they have been renamed Type 1 and Type 2.  Type 1diabetes is not linked to obesity and is responsible for about 5% of diabetes.   It is an autoimmune condition in which the body’s immune system destroys its own insulin-producing cells, thus severely limiting or completely terminating all insulin production, and is often inherited. It is managed by insulin injections or an insulin pump. 95% of diabetes in the USA is Type 2 diabetes, also known as diabesity (diabetes caused by obesity). This form of diabetes is typically on the basis of insulin resistance, due predominantly to environmental factors including overeating and sedentary living.  Unlike Type 1, Type 2 diabetics produce plenty of insulin, but their bodies cannot process the insulin and are resistant to its actions. Anybody who has excessive abdominal fat is on the pathway from insulin resistance towards diabetes.

While Type 1 diabetes is treated primarily with insulin replacement, diet and exercise are also necessary for its management. With Type 2 diabetes, it is imperative to pursue a lifestyle modification, including dietary changes that avoid certain diabetic-promoting foods and replacement with healthier foods.  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 good dietary habits, 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, there are different classes of medication that can be used to manage the diabetes, although 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 have not been able to control the diabetes, bariatric (weight loss) surgery might be needed to control and even potentially eliminate the diabetes.

As a urologist (a urinary tract specialist), it is not uncommon for me to make the initial diagnosis of diabetes.  This is because diabetes often presents with urinary frequency, a symptom typically treated by urologists.  Sleep-disruptive nighttime frequency is a particularly disturbing symptom and is often a major complaint that brings patients into my office.  Because diabetes causes high levels of blood glucose, this results in glucose in the urine, which causes a diuretic effect (lots of urine production).  In fact, earlier this week a patient came in complaining of new onset of significant urinary frequency; his urinalysis on dipstick showed glucose (normally there should be no glucose in the urine) and his serum glucose was over 400 (normally < 100).  He was promptly sent to his internist for management of Type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, many uncircumcised men who present to my office with foreskin problems have diabetes.  In fact, when a man has foreskin issues such as the foreskin being stuck down over the head of the penis and is not able to be pulled back (phimosis), the first thing I do is to dipstick the urine for glucose.

Aside from urologists having the occasion to make the initial diagnosis of diabetes, we also have ample opportunity to treat many diabetic patients because of the urological problems that can occur as a result of the diabetes, including urinary infections, bladder conditions, and sexual problems such as erectile dysfunction. Additionally, recent studies have indicated that diabetes greatly increases the risk of kidney stones. Although many of these symptoms are common with the aging process in the absence of diabetes, the presence of diabetes hastens them, causing earlier onset and increased severity of these issues.

In general terms, the complications of diabetes occur because of damage to blood vessels and nerves.  Diabetes accelerates atherosclerosis, a condition in which fatty plaques get deposited within the walls of arteries, compromising blood flow and the vital 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 in the hands and feet). 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 the infection-fighting white blood cells.  It is important to know that diabetic control can lower the chances of the early onset and severity of the aforementioned problems.

Many diabetics have urological problems on the basis of neuropathy that affects the bladder.  These issues include impaired sensation in which the bladder becomes “numb” and the patient gets no signal to urinate and 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 such symptoms as urgency, frequency and incontinence.  The good news here is that there are effective, non-invasive means of managing diabetic voiding dysfunction.

Diabetics have many more urinary tract infections than the general population because of many factors including improper functioning of the infection-fighting white blood cells, glucose in the urine (a delightful treat for bacteria) and compromised blood flow to the kidneys and bladder.  Diabetics have a greater risk of asymptomatic bacteruria and pyuria (the presence of white cells and bacteria in the urine without a frank 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 very 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, such as penile implants, artificial urinary sphincters, and mesh implants for pelvic organ prolapse.

Satisfactory sexual functioning is predicated upon good blood flow and an intact nerve supply to the genitals and pelvis.  Diabetics often develop sexual problems 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 has clearly been linked with testosterone deficiency that can worsen libido 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 either and commonly have reduced desire, decreased arousal, and vaginal lubrication issues.

In summary, diabetes is a serious chronic illness with potentially devastating complications. Type 1 diabetes is relatively rare and unavoidable, but is eminently manageable with insulin replacement. Type 2 diabetes is now epidemic and its prevalence has increased dramatically coincident with the expanding American waistline. Type 2 is avoidable and can be improved/reversed through integration of healthy eating habits, weight management, and exercise.

Many people—myself included—do not relish seeing doctors, because such visits can be frightening, invasive, and sometimes uncomfortable.  It is a simple fact that healthy people do not need to consult doctors very often, aside from routine “wellness” visits.  The corollary is if you don’t want to see doctors very often, stay healthy.  To stay healthy you need the right lifestyle—avoiding tobacco, maintaining a satisfactory weight, eating healthy foods and drinking in moderation, avoiding stress, and getting plenty of exercise as well as adequate sleep. If your lifestyle is not up to par, remember that it is never too late to change. Your health is ultimately your own responsibility, but as doctors, it is our responsibility to help educate you and guide you towards the pathway of healthy habits and lifestyle—there is simply no magic bullet other than this.  Lifestyle modifications can be amazingly restorative to your health and overall well being.  And simply put, there is absolutely nothing else that transcends being healthy.

A special thank you to diabetes specialist Joseph Giangola, M.D. for reviewing and editing this blog entry.

Andrew Siegel, M.D.

Author of Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food

www.PromiscuousEating.com

Now available on Amazon Kindle