Can Diabetes Affect Urological Health?!

April 13, 2021

This may come as a surprise to some, but diabetes and urological health issues are closely connected. Diabetics are susceptible to urinary tract infections (UTIs), bladder problems, and sexual dysfunction in both men and women. Diabetes can also often exacerbate urologic conditions because it can impair the body’s blood flow, nerves, and sensory functions.

Simply put, diabetes causes your blood glucose (blood sugar) levels to be too high. Glucose is the body’s most important source of fuel and comes from the foods you eat. When that glucose enters the bloodstream after eating, it requires a hormone called insulin to enter the cells. However, people with Type I Diabetes don’t make insulin at all, and people with Type II Diabetes either don’t make insulin, or their bodies don’t use it in the right way (this is called being “insulin resistant”). This causes too much glucose in the blood, which can harm kidneys, eyes, and other organs.

Bladder Conditions and UTIs

“Diabetes can affect the function and structure of the lower urinary tract, which in turn may play a role in patients with diabetes having more UTIs, overactive or underactive bladder, and problems with urination,” says Michael J. Kennelly, MD, Professor of Urology and Obstetrics & Gynecology at Carolinas Medical Center.

Over time, people with diabetes may also lose sensory function. This can increase the chances of bladder or kidney infections, as some people may, without knowing, wait too long to go to the bathroom. 

Sexual Dysfunction

Because diabetes can impact nerves and cause sensory issues, both diabetic men and women can experience sexual dysfunction and decreased blood flow to the genial area. 

Women with diabetes may lose sensory function or even experience vaginal dryness, which can be painful during sex. Unfortunately, there is much less research on sexual dysfunction in women than in men. There are about 20 different treatments for men, while there is only one FDA-approved treatment for women (Addyi). Men can be treated with pills, penile implants, pumps, testosterone treatment, shockwave therapy such as Pulsewave, and even surgery.

Kidneys

Diabetic kidney failure is the most common form of kidney disease, and it affects both kidneys at the same time. Swelling in parts of the body is a common sign of diabetic kidney disease, and people with later stages of the disease have a greater chance of being told they have kidney cancer.

The purpose of your kidneys is to filter and clean your blood. When your kidneys aren’t working the right way, you may have to go on dialysis. Damaged kidneys also impact the types of drugs that can be prescribed, as most drugs are absorbed in the kidneys or liver.

Lifestyle Factors

The good news is that healthy lifestyle factors can help with diabetes care, urological health issues, and sexual function. These consist of eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, working out, managing stress, getting enough sleep, and not smoking.

One of the biggest concerns with patients with diabetes is how to limit the carbohydrates in their diet, which includes sugars, fiber, and starchy foods. Your goal is to be mindful about keeping steady blood sugar levels. It’s a good idea to speak with a nutritionist about what to add, avoid, or limit in the diet. During the visit, you should go over topics such as how to read nutrition labels, managing portion sizes, and understanding carbs.

Your Health Care Team

If you have diabetes and urology-related health problems, it may be a good idea to combine care from your primary care doctor, urologist, and nutritionist, to come up with a plan. This plan may involve a blend of lifestyle changes, oral medications, and insulin. You should also feel comfortable talking to your urologist about sexual function and bladder control.

To speak to a urologist and set a consultation with our nutritionist, give us a call at 512.694.8888 or submit a contact form online.