Can diabetes impact male fertility? The short answer is yes. But don’t panic – there is lots you can do to support both your health and fertility if you;re living with the condition. Here we’ll break down exactly how diabetes and fertility are linked and share some lifestyle tips that can help you.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition where your body’s blood sugar level becomes too high and this is down to issues with insulin. Insulin is a hormone which helps blood sugar enter your cells so it can be used for energy. In people with diabetes, insulin struggles to do its job properly – this can be because your body struggles to produce enough insulin or it can’t efficiently use the insulin it does produce.
There are two main types of diabetes:
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is something you are born with and is technically an autoimmune disease. In people with Type 1 diabetes the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas – the organ where insulin is produced – and this means that not enough insulin is produced. People with Type 1 diabetes have to take insulin every day to help keep their blood sugar levels at a manageable state.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is something that usually develops over time, where your body builds up a resistance to insulin and sugar builds up in your blood. We know that Type 2 is often linked to lifestyle factors like being overweight or underactive and can also be hereditary. It’s the more common type of diabetes – with over 90% of cases of the condition being classed as Type 2.
How do I know if I have diabetes?
There are various symptoms of diabetes that you can look out for and they include:
- Excessive thirst
- Needing to pee a lot
- Losing weight unexpectedly
- Excessive hunger
- Issues with vision
- Numb hands and/or feet
- Chronic Fatigue
- Dry Skin
- Being prone to infection
Some symptoms are more common in Type 1 diabetics, such as nausea, vomiting, or stomach pains. Because people with Type diabetes often notice symptoms from childhood, it is usually a bit easier to spot. Type 2 diabetics may have no clear symptoms at all, or potentially just attribute them to having a busy, adult life.
The only way to get a clear diabetes diagnosis is to have your blood sugar levels tested – which is something you can do through your GP or health practitioner.
Does diabetes impact male fertility?
Various studies have indicated that having diabetes could have an effect on male fertility and also contribute to psychosexual problems that may make it harder to conceive.
Whilst (as always) there is not enough conclusive scientific evidence into the link between sperm health and diabetes, some research indicates that men living with diabetes could be more prone to issues with sperm quality – including motility and count. This is likely because high blood sugar levels cause both inflammation and oxidative stress – two of the biggest enemies of sperm health. There is also a strong link between Type 2 diabetes and obesity – and we know that being overweight can have a huge impact on the quality of your sperm.
Studies have shown that there is a high prevalence of erectile dysfunction in men with diabetes. It’s believed that this is caused by nerve damage and poor circulation which are both associated with long-standing diabetes or diabetes that has not been managed properly. There is also research to support the theory that high cholesterol is linked to issues with sexual function and many people with diabetes are also living with high cholesterol. Whilst erectile dysfunction may not technically impact the quality of your sperm cells, it can still obviously cause some issues in having sex and conceiving.
Issues With Ejaculation
The nerve damage associated with diabetes can also cause issues with ejaculation. For some, this might mean they experience retrograde ejaculation. Retrograde ejaculation is where semen ends up in your bladder rather than coming out of your penis when you have an orgasm- which means you will ejaculate with little or no semen, which obviously isn’t good news if you are trying to conceive.
In some cases, you may experience delayed ejaculation where it takes a lot of sexual stimulus to achieve orgasms. Whilst this might not directly lead to fertility issues, it can obviously make sex quite stressful and make trying to conceive even harder to navigate.
Low Testosterone levels
Men with diabetes are twice as likely to struggle with low testosterone. It’s thought that this is probably due to a link between testosterone production and insulin resistance. Whilst it’s totally possible to conceive with low testosterone (also known as Low T) it can cause a number of issues for your health including low libido, depression, erectile dysfunction and increased body fat – all of which can contribute to a tougher fertility journey.
How to improve your health and fertility if you have diabetes
If you have diabetes the good news is that everything you should be doing to help manage the condition will also support your fertility, such as:
- Trying to reach a healthy weight
- Eating whole foods that don’t have too much sugar in them
- Avoiding processed foods
- Reducing your alcohol intake
- Staying active
- Managing sleep and stress
It’s also really important to ensure you are taking any of your prescribed medications – even on days that you feel good!
If you have diabetes and are struggling to conceive (and lifestyle factors aren’t helping) there are still many options for your road to fatherhood. Assisted fertility treatments such as IVF and ICSI can not only help if you are struggling with poor sperm quality but can also negate the need for intercourse if issues like erectile dysfunction or retrograde ejaculation are making intercourse difficult.
Worried diabetes is impacting your sperm health? Just like you can test your blood sugar from the comfort of your home, our totally at-home fertility test makes it easier than ever to test and track your sperm quality. You can learn more about our test and order yours right here.