Diabetes and Urology: Are They Related?

August 09,2021 |
Woman talking to her doctor

The systems in your body are constantly working together to promote homeostasis. Physiological processes work towards this state of equilibrium because it’s when your body functions at its best. Due to this interconnectivity, it’s no surprise that chronic conditions have an impact on almost all major systems, regardless of their direct effects. This is especially true with diabetes and urology. Diabetes and urologic health are woven together and more closely connected than you might think. Here, we’ll go into the details about an important question about diabetes and urology: are they related?

The Relationship Between Diabetes and Urology

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects how a person processes glucose. Glucose is our body’s main source of energy. It comes from the food we eat and is then broken down in our bodies and delivered to our cells via insulin. In a healthy individual, this happens without problems day in and day out. In people living with diabetes, this process is not as effective. Depending on the type of diabetes you’re living with, your pancreas may not make enough insulin, or any at all, or your body doesn’t use the insulin effectively. This causes glucose to build up in your blood stream and your cells are deprived of its energy.

While spikes in blood glucose levels are natural, having high blood sugar for too long can lead to an array of health conditions. This is why people living with diabetes need to take insulin—it helps regulate blood glucose levels and keep them healthy. If not managed properly, high blood sugar levels create problems such as skin conditions, vision impairment or loss, nerve damage, kidney disease, heart disease, stroke, and more. Diabetes can also increase your risk for urinary tract infections, bladder conditions, and sexual dysfunction. It can worsen existing urologic conditions and contribute to new or developing ones.

While living with diabetes is manageable, there is a direct link between the chronic disease and urology. To make sure that you’re staying healthy and reducing your risk for common urologic conditions, it’s important that you measure your blood sugar levels throughout the day and use insulin as needed. If you’re living with diabetes and think you may have developed a urologic condition, don’t hesitate to schedule a visit with a urologist today.

How Diabetes Affects Bladder Conditions

Diabetes can have a direct impact on how the lower urinary tract functions. When diabetes goes unmanaged, it can lead to increased rates of urinary tract infections, which can spread to the bladder and kidney—especially if UTIs are not properly diagnosed and treated. Diabetes also increases inflammation and swelling of your urinary tract, which can create problems when using the bathroom. Overactive bladder syndrome is more common in people living with diabetes, so if you have any signs or symptoms talk to your doctor about the best treatment options.

Over the years, people living with diabetes also become more at risk for nerve damage and the loss of sensory function. This can make it difficult to properly register the signals that communicate when your bladder gets full. In turn, many people don’t know when they have to use the bathroom and end up waiting too long to go. By keeping too much urine in your bladder for too long, you increase your risk of developing a bladder infection, which can result in serious complications.

People living with diabetes tend to have underactive or hyperactive bladder muscles. If you notice any of the following signs or symptoms, see your doctor immediately. The sooner you diagnose a problem, the sooner you can treat it and the lower your risk for developing more severe complications. Signs and symptoms to be mindful of include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Extreme hunger
  • Extreme thirst
  • Loss of vision
  • Loss of sexual function
  • Signs of infection
  • Swelling in the genitals
  • Problems with urination
  • Excessive weight gain
  • Excessive weight loss

Other urologic conditions that are common in people living with diabetes include poor control of the sphincter muscles, urinary incontinence, urinary retention, and increased urinary urgency or frequency.

Sexual Dysfunction and Diabetes

Diabetes has a direct effect on sexual health. Since diabetes and urology are so interconnected, the problems that come with urologic conditions can translate to sexual dysfunction. Diabetes can lead to swelling in the genitals and increased urinary tract infections, which greatly dampens your libido.

Sexual dysfunction can occur in both males and females as diabetes affects nerve and sensory function, thus causing changes in the blood flow to the genitals. The most common problem in women living with diabetes is vaginal dryness, decreased sexual response, reduced libido, and pain during sex. The most common problems in men living with diabetes include erectile dysfunction, retrograde ejaculation, testosterone deficiency, and a reduced libido. Sexual functioning is directly related to blood flow and nerve stimulation, which diabetes can severely damage. If you are experiencing any sexual dysfunction, there are treatment options available. However, it’s advised that you seek help immediately as nerve damage cannot be repaired, only prevented from getting worse.

Uncircumcised men have an increased risk for balanoposthitis, which is the inflammation of the head of the penis and foreskin. This inflammation can worsen to a point where the foreskin cannot be pulled to expose the head of the penis, which can contribute to fungal infections and other complications. In some men, this is one of the first signs of diabetes. If you have any problems, or think you may have balanoposthitis, see your doctor immediately.

Diabetes and Kidney Functioning

Unfortunately, diabetes is the most common cause of kidney failure in the United States. It’s often referred to as diabetic kidney disease and can happen gradually over time. However, if diabetic kidney disease does occur, it affects both kidneys simultaneously. This can be dangerous, as it severely inhibits your body’s ability to filter your blood. A common sign of diabetic kidney disease is a swelling that persists in several parts of your body. If left untreated, it can progress into kidney cancer. Make sure that you take measures to help prevent a kidney infection and always talk to your doctor if you notice any irregular changes in your body or symptoms of kidney problems.

Damage to your kidneys can be caused by a lack of insulin in the bloodstream, so properly managing your diabetes is essential to maintaining healthy kidney functioning over the years. If you start to notice that you’re having difficulty sensing when you have to use the bathroom, talk to your urologist about preventative measures you can take. Doing so will reduce the number of infections that you get, which can help keep your kidneys safe. This is important because kidney damage can impact the success of insulin that you need to take when managing your diabetes. Otherwise, high blood sugar levels will continue to cause other problems and worsen your condition.

Managing Diabetes and Making Healthy Urologic Choices

Luckily, by properly managing your diabetes, you’re also making healthy urologic choices—the two go hand-in-hand. This means that by taking care of your diabetes and making smart lifestyle choices, you’ll also be taking care of your urologic health. Some of the best ways to do this include diet, exercise, stress relief, and not smoking.

Eating a healthy, nutritious diet filled with plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains can help you stabilize your blood sugar and keep your urinary tract healthy. Try to avoid overeating, as taking in too many calories at once can be overwhelming for your body’s digestive system. You should also limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol you consume each week. In conjunction with a healthy diet, make sure you’re getting regular exercise, staying hydrated, reducing stress in your everyday life, choosing physically active lifestyle options, avoiding cigarette smoke and other drug use, and limiting the number of processed foods that you consume. Make sure that you see your urologist regularly and always prioritize a healthy diabetes management plan.

Living with diabetes does not mean that you are guaranteed to have urologic issues. However, it does increase your risk dramatically. That’s why properly managing your diabetes is so essential. Byram Healthcare is a medical supply company that provides diabetes support along with urologic products and education. To learn more, or to inquire about our selection of products, contact one of our representatives today.